Success Securing National Instrumentation Funding: 900.000 Euro for Novel Light Microscope

Scientists from the Centre for Structural Systems Biology and partner institutions were successful in securing funding via the German Research Foundation’s (DFG) major instrumentation initiative entitled “Innovative, Experimental Optical Microscopes for Research.” The 900.000 Euro awarded will finance a novel light microscope. This microscope will help scientists investigate important bio-medical questions such as which cellular processes are involved in viral infections.

HCMV infected cell, 96h post infection. Single particle tracking (coloured tracks) was performed to identify events in which viral capsids (green) envelope on membranes (red). The lattice light sheet will allow to track rare and rapid viral events in three dimensions over long timescales. IMAGE: Felix Flomm, Jens Bosse

The lattice light-sheet microscope (LLS) creates videos of molecular processes that occur within living cells. The microscope’s ability to observe light-sensitive samples over a long period of time will provide scientists with new opportunities to not only study molecular processes but also to examine brief, transient interactions during the pathogens live cycle. The microscope will be used to study the interactions of pathogens such as the malaria parasite or herpes viruses with the host cell.

With a limited observation period and image frequency, the majority of light microscopes currently used in biomedical research are unable to observe cellular processes in their full temporal and spatial extent. In addition, the cell is often damaged by the harmful effects of the strong light beams used; an effect known as phototoxicity. The LLS microscope offers a solution for these problems as it uses a low light intensity to irradiate only the sample elements in focus which greatly reduces the overall energy entering the cell.

Scientists from the Universität Hamburg’s chemistry, biology and physics departments as well as scientists from University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE), Heinrich Pette Institute, Leibniz Institute for Experimental Virology (HPI), and Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM) were involved in the funding proposal. The microscope will be housed in CSSB where electron cryo-microscopes for the deciphering of infections processes are currently being installed.

Overall, the German Research Council (DFG) granted 14,5 million euro for 13 different light microscopes at German Universities. The funding follows a call for proposals launched in January 2018 as part of a major instrumentation initiative, when the DFG invited applications for emerging and not yet widely established optical microscopy technologies.