Universiteit Leiden

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European project ImageInLife has started

The Horizon 2020 project ImageInLife has started on 1 January, followed by a kick-off meeting at the coordinating University of Montpellier at the end this month. This Marie Skłodowska-Curie training network brings together European groups that work on the imaging of vertebrates and offers fourteen PhD positions. Two of these PhD students will work at the Institute of Biology Leiden under the supervision of Annemarie Meijer and Marcel Schaaf.

Knowledge exchange

The project includes seventeen partners from seven different countries, including eleven universities or research institutes and six companies. The main goals of this network are knowledge exchange and the training of young researchers in biological imaging techniques. ‘These techniques have given a huge impulse to biomedical research in the past twenty years, and still much progress can be made with the further development of advanced electron and fluorescence microscopy’, says Annemarie Meijer, Professor of Immunobiology and training coordinator of ImageInLife. Eventually, this project should result in a new generation of excellent bio-imagers in Europe.

Cells in life

Researchers in Leiden have been using imaging techniques to investigate infectious diseases for years, in particular tuberculosis. ‘The transparent larvae of zebrafish are exceptionally useful to do this’, says Annemarie Meijer. ‘The most advanced imaging techniques are currently almost only applied on single cells. In this project we want to use these techniques to look deeper into the tissue of an organism – investigating the functioning of cells. That is essential in order to better understand the defence against pathogens.’

Collaboration

Inside the University different departments already work together in the field of imaging. The essential equipment for imaging is concentrated at the Cell Observatory, NeCEN and the LUMC. ‘Two key techniques for the research in ImageInLife are correlative light and electron microscopy and single-molecule microscopy’, Marcel Schaaf explains. ‘We often work together with the LUMC in the field of electron microscopy. Furthermore, we already succeeded with the Leiden Institute of Physics (LION) in studying single molecules on the skin of zebrafish embryos. John van Noort of the LION has a number of new fluorescence microscopy set-ups, with which we can reduce the noise in our images substantially, so that the technology can be applied to other tissues.’ This project also offers an excellent opportunity to enforce the collaboration with other groups in the rest of Europe.

Network for life

‘A project like this offers a huge added value for the PhD students’, says Meijer. ‘As the coordinator in a similar project I noticed that such a training network works extremely well. The PhD students evolve in the project and eventually form a close group. They build their own network from which they can profit their entire career. In addition, we organise workshops for the PhD students. Here we do not only focus on training in research techniques, but also in other skills such as science communication.’