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Research Department Biophysical Imaging

To better understand living matter such as cells and therefore to better treat diseases, we need to understand how molecules and cells interact with each other. Importantly, we need to understand the physics behind it, i.e. the biophysics. For this, scientist rely on highly sensitive and non-invasive analysis techniques, including far-field fluorescence microscopy. The aim of the Biological Imaging Department is providing optimized observation techniques to in more detail understand molecular and cellular interactions especially on membranes. To do so we need to learn about the shortcomings of existing techniques and how to overcome them. The department is doing so through several collaborative cell-biological and biomedical research projects.


Overall goals

  • Providing cellular observation tools with highest possible spatial and temporal resolution as well as with a large and complementary information content.
  • Solving long-standing biophysical question in cell biology such as the mystery of lipid nanodomains or rafts.
  • Develop advanced optical-microscopy based diagnostic tools.
  • Optimize advanced optical microscopy for in-vivo applications.

Specific biophysical technologies

  • Advanced far-field fluorescence microscopy with a specific focus on super-resolution microscopy such as STED microscopy for imaging molecular and cellular organization with high spatial and temporal resolution. 
  • Single-molecule fluorescence spectroscopy tools for studying molecule diffusion dynamics such as fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) and single-molecule tracking. Here, prominent novel tools are STED-FCS (combination of fluorescence-correlation spectroscopy and super-resolution STED microscopy) and iSCAT or MINFLUX-based single-molecule tracking for observing molecular diffusion and interaction dynamics with so far unprecedented resolution.
  • Use of adaptive and other advanced optics for enabling STED and STED-FCS deeper inside samples, or combined light-sheet and STED-FCS microscopy for quasi-simultaneous recording of whole-cell and molecular dynamics.
  • Correlative microscopy approaches such as complementary readout of fluorescence and forces (e.g. optical tweezer, atomic-force microscopy, traction force microscopy).
  • Advanced data analysis tools.

Specific biophysical targets

  • Investigation of molecular diffusion and interaction dynamics in membranes such as of lipids and receptors and interrogate the influence of these dynamics on receptor functionality and cellular signaling (participation in Trans-Regio 166 ‘ReceptorLight’ and Collaborative Research Center SFB 1278 ‘PolyTarget’).
  • Influence of membrane lipids and actin cytoskeleton on receptor functionality - how do lipids matter?
  • Molecular organization and dynamics in the cellular cytosol, e.g. at organelles such as peroxisomes (Research unit 1905 ‘Structure and function of the peroxisomal translocon’).
  • Molecular reorganization at the membrane of activated immune cells and influence of membrane lipids during this activation (such as T-cells or Antigen-Presenting-Cells) (activities at Oxford sub-group).
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