Seeing is understanding
All cells within an organism are constantly exposed to a plethora of signals that influence their development and control their behaviour. This is also the case for the endothelial cells of blood and lymphatic vessels and the hematopoietic cells, which they contain. We want to understand the morphogenetic processes that form lymphatic vessels and the control mechanisms of leukocyte activation that shape the immune system. Biologically both processes are intricately interwoven as hematopoietic cells can regulate growth of blood and lymph vessels and lymphatic vessels are an important part of the immune system.
In their physiological environment, these processes can unfortunately not be directly observed by light microscopy. Therefore classically developmental and pathological processes have to be deduced from stained tissue sections. This retrospective analysis of histological specimen often allows only an incomplete understanding and is equally unsatisfactory as the attempt to comprehend a movie by looking at a few dozen still pictures instead of watching the entire movie.
Our team is trying to overcome these limitations in two ways. (1) Rather than looking at sections or series of sections, we use light sheet microscopy and optical sectioning to interrogate complex spatial structures like the vascular systems by generating complete lossless 3D reconstructions of these systems. (2) We are actively developing and using optical imaging window models that allow the observation of developmental and pathological processes over prolonged periods of time. Central to this approach is the application multiphoton microscopy.
- Development and morphogenesis of lymphatic vessels.
- Imaging of the vascular system in space and time, for instance during tumor growth and chronic inflammatory diseases like atherosclerosis.
- Signaling mechanisms involved leukocyte activation and control.