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Long-period observation of biological processes at Picosecond time resolution and Nanometre spatial resolution: a research-training network for advanced imaging Technology

Final Activity Report Summary - FROM FLIM TO FLIN (Long-period observation of biological processes at picosecond time resolution and nanometre spatial resolution: a research-training network ...)

To understand how bio-molecules arrange to constitute functional cells, how cells form an organism and how protein malfunction can lead to disease, a deeper understanding of the location, movement and interactions of proteins is of central importance. Information about protein dynamics and interaction within living cells is gained by attaching fluorescent labels and then observing these fluorophores with advanced microscopes. Several of such fluorescence techniques are presently available; one of the most powerful ones is referred to as fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM). The development and efficient application of this technique require interdisciplinary expertise in research fields ranging from biology, chemistry, biochemistry and medicine to physics, engineering and software development.

In the "FROM FLIM TO FLIN" research training network (RTN) scientists from these fields teamed up and worked together on collaborative research projects, applying and further developing FLIM and training young scientists in a highly interdisciplinary environment. Moreover, the spatial resolution of the FLIM technique was further improved to yield fluorescence lifetime imaging nanoscopy (FLIN), by combining cutting edge microscopy technology developed in the network.

The newly developed and improved techniques were applied to bio-molecules and cell biology, in particular for unravelling signalling networks relevant for human pathology, highlighting molecular drug targets and elucidating the mechanism of bacterial infections. Furthermore, the use of novel nano-probes was explored for the detection of molecular interactions in living cells and organisms. Observation of bio-molecules at much smaller scale and for a much longer time was anticipated to open new avenues for cell biology and biomedicine. The scientific results were published in high ranking peer reviewed journals and patents for novel microscope technologies were applied for.

In the highly interdisciplinary environment of FROM FLIM TO FLIN network 15 young scientists were trained on advanced microscopy techniques. The close interaction, collaboration and exchange of knowledge between researchers from various disciplines provided the young fellows with an excellent scientific environment and enabled interdisciplinary research exceeding the level achieved individually or by bilateral collaborations. The 15 fellows originated from 11 different countries, each fellow crossed borders to take up employment, regular network symposia were held bianually at the project participants' locations in eight European countries and the fellows spent part of their employment period with different network participants. The fellows thus gained a strong international background and a pan-European perspective, enabling them to live and work in virtually every European country. The fellows divided their time between the universities, national institutes and small company laboratories comprising the FROM FLIM TO FLIN network. They became accustomed to an inter-sectorial environment and were highly flexible in terms of future positions, thus further broadening their spectrum of professional opportunities. After the completion of their FROM FLIM TO FLIN employment, the fellows found new challenging job opportunities in universities, national research institutes and biotechnology companies.

The network that was established with academic and industrial partners in the fields of physics, biology and engineering provided state of the art training of next generation scientific researchers possessing the broad, interdisciplinary skills necessary for innovative research that could drive development both in technology and health care. This network significantly improved the competitiveness of the European research area by expanding European human resources with young researchers skilled in the art and science of advanced nano-scale microscopy.