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Research & Development

DeLIVER project aims for high-resolution study of liver tissues

12 Sep 2017

Bielefeld University and partners will develop methods to study how liver cells change over time.

A new collaboration supported by €3.7 million from the European Commission will develop new optical methods for studying the liver with high-resolution microscopy.

Christened DeLIVER and coordinated by Bielefeld University, the project will commence in January 2018. It is the seventh of Bielefeld's training networks for young European academics under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions program, part of Europe's Horizon 2020 research agenda.

The goal is to learn more about the effect of medical drugs on the liver, and how the organ changes with advancing age, helping to address the urgent societal need for an improvement in liver health and reduction in the incidence of liver disease.

"In the new project, researchers from physics and biomedicine are coordinating their analyses and their advances, and jointly addressing healthy aging – one of the greatest challenges to society today," commented Bielefeld's Thomas Huser, the network coordinator. "It is the close link between the two disciplines that makes this programme special."

Bielefeld's Biomolecular Photonics research group under Huser is developing high-resolution microscopy platforms based on super-resolution fluorescence microscopy and label-free spectroscopy, intended to make the structures in body cells more visible and accessible to researchers than traditional microscopy methods can allow.

Super-resolution methods
Recent studies of liver tissues from the Bielefeld group included the use of super-resolution direct stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (dSTORM) to examine an important class of liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LSECs), said to open a path to in vitro examination using highly resolving localization microscopy techniques that could be implemented on non-specialized fluorescence microscopes.

Another recent Bielefeld project studied LSECs through the complementary use of two different super-resolution optical microscopy modalities - 3D structured illumination microscopy (3D-SIM) and single molecule localization microscopy - in a common optical platform. This involved using 3D-SIM to acquire highly resolved overviews of large sample areas, before applying single molecule localization microscopy to selected locations of interest.

Alongside Bielefeld, the DeLIVER consortium's academic members include Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the University of Oxford. Industrial partners include LaVision BioTec, Cherry Biotech, and liver-analysis experts D'Liver.

Under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions program, the DeLIVER project has a significant training dimension, allowing young doctoral students an opportunity to work alongside experienced scientists and gain practical experience in industry via the consortium's industrial partners.

"This prepares them specifically for both the academic and non-academic labor market," commented Huser. "All of the young scientists will spend several months at the European partner universities and companies, as well as at the scientific partner institutions in the United States, China, and Australia."

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