To study complex biological and immunological systems, such as living cells, scientists rely on highly sensitive and non-invasive analysis techniques, including far-field fluorescence microscopy. With the aim of better understanding immunological processes, Professor Christian Eggeling’s research focuses on the application and development of superior, ultra-sensitive, live-cell fluorescence microscopy techniques with spatial resolution down to the molecular scale.
Professor Christian Eggeling now works at the Radcliffe Department of Medicine.
Super-resolution optical microscopy allows us to study immunological processes on the molecular level. We can get new insights into how our body reacts to viral or bacterial attacks. This has the potential to help us design new drugs and developing new ways of treating diseases.
Ultimately, medical research must translate into improved treatments for patients. At the Nuffield Department of Medicine, our researchers collaborate to develop better health care, improved quality of life, and enhanced preventative measures for all patients. Our findings in the laboratory are translated into changes in clinical practice, from bench to bedside.
Q: Can you tell us about the techniques you use to study living cells?
CE: It’s called super-resolution optical microscopy. Why do we use optical microscopy? Because to study living cells you want to be non-invasive, and light and using lenses that are far away from the cells is optimum for that. But there’s a problem with using these tools because the spatial resolution is limited. If you study processes within the cell at some point it just appears blurred on an image, you cannot resolve these details. What I worked on over the last few years is trying to surpass this limitation: we are connecting it with fluorescent labels. We can somehow manipulate these fluorescent labels to surpass this physical barrier. Now we can study the living cell with unprecedented spatial resolution.
Q: What is Nano-immunology?
CE: We use these super-resolution microscopes to study immunological processes like processes that go on when a virus attacks the body, how do the cells react on this? By using these super-resolve techniques we can now study these reactions on the molecular level, down to the single protein level.
Q: Can this technology help us treat disease?
CE: It can because now we can get new insights into how our body reacts to viral or bacterial attacks on the molecular level. Not so much is known so far, now we can really dig into this and resolve new processes, new details of these attack responses.
Q: What are the most important lines of research that have developed in the last 5 or 10 years?
CE: One is based on our super-resolution microscopy techniques because now we get more sensitive to study the living cell, study processes. On the other hand drug discovery wants to use more sensitive tools: fluorescence microscopy is one of these tools. Now proteins with better resolution will allow us to approach these problems with much more detail and much more precision.
Q: Why does your line of research matter? Why should we put money into it?
CE: The super-resolution microscopy techniques, we know that they work but to apply them and to apply them in a way that we can resolve much more detail on what is going on after viral and bacterial attacks gives of course a huge potential in finding out how drugs interact on the molecular level. I came to Oxford because it’s a big chance to show that these super-resolution microscopes really work and a really important application. My own personal reasons are that I have some diseases in my family and even a death-case and I would just love to contribute to biomedical research in this way.
Q: How does your research fit into translational medicine within the department?
CE: Resolving new details on the molecular level and how drugs interact on the molecular level gives a lot of potential to design new drugs, to develop new drugs, in a high-throughput screening platform and translate this into new ways of treating diseases.