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Fluorescence microscopy is one of the most widely used tools for visualization of biological structures, despite the fact that diffraction of light limits the spatial resolution to several hundred nanometers for visible excitation. This review will focus on one method for overcoming the diffraction limit and achieving nanoscale spatial resolution in optical microscopy, namely near-field scanning optical microscopy. A brief overview of the technical details of various aperture and apertureless-based near field methods is presented, followed by examples that illustrate recent applications of near field techniques to cellular imaging. Finally, perspectives on new approaches and a comparison with recent developments in super-resolution fluorescence imaging are presented.

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