The aim of our research is to develop novel microscopy techniques where we can map 3D distributions of biomolecules such as lipids, carbohydrates, and proteins in living cells and hydrated, soft materials/tissues without the need for invasive sample preparation or exogenous label molecules. Hence, this allows us to monitor bio-chemical processes under biologically more relevant conditions than what current microscopy techniques allow.
We form images of spatial variations in chemically specific, inherent vibrations in electron orbitals (Second and Third Harmonic Generation; SHG & THG) or molecular bonds (Raman, Coherent Anti-Stokes Raman Scattering and Stimulated Raman Scattering; CARS & SRS) by probing them with ultra-short laser pulses. By further implementing a nanometre-sized scanning probe (Atomic Force Microscopy, AFM), we aim to achieve nanometre resolution and complement with information on surface topography/micromechanics.
In a parallel line of research, we develop 3D tissue-mimicking environments – composed of native and engineered biopolymers – for live-cell microscopy studies. In collaboration with Prof. Sarah Heilshorn, Stanford University, we have established a lab for recombinant protein engineering to synthesize extracellular polypeptide mimics, allowing us to tune their properties at amino acid level to form milieus optimal for specific cell lineages and mimicking diseased conditions.
We apply these techniques in four different projects. The molecular mechanisms behind neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Alzheimer's) are investigated by observing protein misfolding in brain-mimicking matrices and the interaction of amyloids with lipid bilayers and structural proteins. We study stem cell integration and how they differentiate into functional mature cells in tissue-mimicking and de/receullularized biopolymer matrices as future replacements to diseased tissues and for drug screening, reducing the need for animal/clinical tests. The tissue-mimicking matrices are also designed to mimick tumor tissue, allowing us to observe and understand how cancer cells migrate and spread metastases. Finally, we explore multi-photon excited plasmons in metallic nano-structures for few-molecule biosensing and nano-sized light emission.
We host and can give training in a pico-second pulsed laser lab, three microscope setups for multi-photon excited fluorescence and non-linear microscopy, single-photon counting detectors, a high-sensitivity spectrometer, CCD camera, Atomic Force Microscope (AFM), Scanning probe microscope, a cell culturing facility and a lab for recombinant protein engineering.
Summer students, master thesis students, PhD students and postdocs with an interest in our research and technologies are very welcome to contact Annika Enejder (email@example.com
) for further information.