Testa group featured in SSF video about their research

Development of super resolution approaches for imaging living cells and tissues

Published Apr 25, 2019

A number of human activities like thinking, learning and speaking rely on neuronal connections and their ability to function. Specialized protein machineries located in sub neuronal compartments such as synapses and the axon initial segments mediate those connections. 

The function and spatial arrangement of those compartments is difficult to analyze using current methods such as conventional fluorescence microscopy or electrophysiology, since neuronal organelles and protein clusters are small and tightly spaced. 

My aim is to arm the life science community with a powerful microscope able to open a new window to the interior of cells and tissues, especially to the synapses. To do so we need to gently interrogate the neurons in order to preserve their ability to form connections. In other words, we need to look at them in tissues where they are still able to function and communicate with each other. Our new technology will be especially designed to penetrate tissues only with light in a minimal invasive way to reduce any risk of damage. Importantly, these features will come along with an unprecedented ability to look at small proteins. How they function, where they are located, how fast they move, how they behave during activity, when they start to malfunction, how fast they are substituted? Addressing such questions at the molecular level will be extremely helpful to better understand synaptic activity.

This project requires not only technical skills but also the possibility to be exposed to the right questions, to understand the needs of the life science field, to work in a true multidisciplinary environment. It will be best developed in a place, which supports creativity and technological development and promotes scientific interaction among scientist of different background. I moved to Sweden with the goal to develop new imaging tools for a better understanding of the brain. The technology described here has the potential to meet this challenge with a high impact within neuroscientific research. Finally, many human diseases such as Parkinson or Alzheimer involve degeneration of neurons with defects in the synaptic protein machinery. A better look at their molecular function can be an important first step towards rapid and accurate diagnosed screening methods.