21. December 2021
New publi­ca­tion by Ralf Bartenschlager
© Hector Fellow Academy

Research team presents optimized soft X‑ray tomog­ra­phy for rapid whole-cell imaging

Viral pathogens such as the SARS-CoV‑2 coron­avirus modify the inter­nal struc­ture of the cells they infect. These changes take place at the level of the individ­ual cell compo­nents, the organelles, and can provide infor­ma­tion about how viral diseases develop.

"Scanning electron micro­scopes are preferred in cell imaging because they provide very sharp images at the nanoscale," explains Venera Weinhardt, a postdoc­toral researcher at Centre for Organ­is­mal Studies at Heidel­berg Univer­sity and Lawrence Berke­ley National Labora­tory in Berke­ley, USA. "However, this technol­ogy can take up to one week to scan a single cell.”

A German-Ameri­can research team led by Dr. Venera Weinhardt at COS and in collab­o­ra­tion with Hector Fellow Ralf Barten­schlager has optimized a special X‑ray technique called soft X‑ray tomog­ra­phy to provide high-resolu­tion three-dimen­sional images of whole cells and their molec­u­lar struc­ture within minutes.

“A high speed is enormously impor­tant in order to be able to examine a large number of cells”, empha­sizes molec­u­lar virol­o­gist Prof. Dr. Ralf Barten­schlager, who works with his depart­ment at Heidel­berg Univer­sity Hospi­tal together with Dr. Weinhardt on the imaging of infec­tion-associ­ated changes in cells.

The researchers are now working on further refin­ing the techniques for sample prepa­ra­tion, automat­ing the analy­sis of the three-dimen­sional image data and devel­op­ing the labora­tory version of a soft X‑ray microscope.

Congrat­u­la­tions to Ralf Bartenschlager!