A pinboard by
Matthias Rieckher

I am a Postdoc, employed at the University Hospital of Cologne, working in the aging institute CECAD


The microscopic visualization of biomolecules, their activity and distribution within cells and organisms, is the most compelling evidence to describe any biological phenomenon. For example, organismal development depends on the production and release of hormones that spread systemically and influence the shaping of organs and the whole organism. Any imbalance in this well-coordinated hormonal process can lead to developmental failure or the formation of cancer. To record such events in model organisms or tissue culture, scientists desire microscopes that produce three-dimensional (3D) images, with a resolution high enough to record subcellular events in whole-animal context, as they unfold over time.

Our interdisciplinary research team consisting of biologists, physicists and informaticians faces this challenge by combining two novel imaging technologies called Light Sheet Microscopy (LSM) and Optical Projection Tomography (OPT) in an experimental microscope platform. In LSM, a laser light sheet is produced that scans slice by slice through the specimen and the recorded data can be digitally stacked to produce a 3D image. LSM is rapid and less invasive for the specimen than other microscopy methods. OPT is the optical version of X-ray computed tomography (CT) and produces 3D pictures of anatomic structures. We combine the 3D datasets of LSM and OPT and analyze them in silico to reveal the tiniest subcellular processes and put them into the anatomic context of a living whole-organism.

We specifically adopt the environmental conditions of our microscope platform for development studies in various model organisms, including the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans or the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster, and constantly refine the computational methods for 3D data-reconstruction. Further, we follow the growth of cultivated 3D tumors for breast cancer cells. With our technology we are able to distinguish proliferating cells that define the progression of a malignant tumors and expose the cancer tissue to chemotherapeutics to find novel ways of treatment. Our microscopy setup combines the advantages of two novel 3D imaging techniques that enable us to visualize molecular events as they unfold over time in the context of a whole organism. This improves our understanding of basic biological processes, from organismal development to the growth of tumors, and enables us to test novel biomedical interventions.