23. May 2023

Kareem Elsayad: Uncovering a hidden world of dynamic structure using high resolution optical microspectroscopy: biological and medical implications

Exner Lectures 2023 – Kareem Elsayad (Medical University of Vienna)

The advent of superresolution microscopy and expansion microscopy have opened up new avenues in the life-sciences by allowing one to extensively map a previously invisible nanoscale molecular landscape in complex biological systems in 3D. Knowing the architecture of biological structures on these scales is not only essential for understanding biological processes but also for understanding different pathologies, which can in turn lead to their treatment.

While the nanoscale structure and associated molecular composition can tell us a lot, their functionality will ultimately be dependent also on the associated physical and mechanical properties, which are dependent on the interaction between all the molecules in a given volume, and challenging to derive from such approaches. Here I will talk about some of our work, first at the Vienna Biocenter and now at the Medical University of Vienna, developing optical microspectroscopy approaches to give us insight into some these properties. I will focus specifically on wavelength- and time-resolved microspectroscopy approaches that essentially make use of the natural “jiggling” of molecules to tell us information pertaining to the microscopic elasticity and viscosity in a sample in 3D, the nature of molecular interactions, and in certain cases give insight into the material phase-state. I will talk about what we can learn from such measurements via several examples in cells and tissue, as well as cases where they can prove useful for medical prognostics and diagnostics. Finally, I will touch upon how we are planning to combine these with anatomical information and studies of nanoscale structure extracted from other microscopy techniques, to ultimately model physiological processes.