EPSRC DTP PhD studentship: New correlative imaging techniques for biological tissue characterisation and applications to a cardiac injury model

University of Exeter - College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences

Main supervisor: Prof. Christian Soeller (Exeter)
Co-supervisor:  Dr. Francesca Palombo (Exeter)
Co-supervisor:  Prof. Raimondo Ascione (Bristol)

Light microscopy is of increasing importance in biophysics and biological research. New types of microscopy have been introduced recently which have had widespread impact on biomedical research. These modalities include so-called optical super-resolution imaging as well as Brillouin microscopy, a new imaging method to probe cell biomechanics contactless and with high spatial resolution.

The project will employ new imaging techniques developed by the applicants (CS & FP) and establish the use of these methods to quantify pathological changes in tissue from hearts following myocardial infarction (heart attack), with high relevance to new healthcare approaches that are targeted to inform clinical healthcare practice in the future.

In this project we want to combine these technologies that so far have been mainly used in basic research to eventually provide a novel healthcare technology for advanced pathology diagnosis. Our project will focus on pathology tissue samples that we will obtain from a new pre-clinical tissue biobank at the new Translational Biomedical Research Centre (TBRC), University of Bristol Langford Campus, in work led by co-supervisor and collaborator Prof. Raimondo Ascione (University of Bristol). We will use heart tissue that exhibits localised fibrosis (deposition of a collagen matrix), wound healing and scarring triggered by acute myocardial infarction (MI) in a porcine animal model. To investigate the pathology at the molecular level we will combine our quantitative imaging modalities, i.e. super-resolution imaging of proteins and Brillouin imaging to detect changes in tissue composition, collagen deposition and tissue elasticity/mechanics.

An aim of the project is to investigate the same tissue samples with our various light microscopy modalities as well as another imaging modality, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which is an important and well established clinical imaging modality. This “correlative” imaging approach greatly increases the information that can be extracted but requires image registration between recordings from different microscopes which is one quantitative aspect of the project.

The student role will include:

* use and application of new super-resolution and spectroscopic/Brillouin imaging methods

* implementation of methods to align samples between microscopes with sub-micron registration

* combination of the information from the dual imaging modalities to quantify pathological changes (fibrosis, stiffness) and contribute to development of new pathology assays

* preparation of tissue samples received from the pre-clinical tissue bank at the TBSRC for imaging

In addition, the student will coordinate communication between the Bristol based bio-bank on sample selection and report results back to our collaborator RA, guided by close dialog with the supervisors.

The successful candidate will acquire skills in the application and development of new advanced imaging techniques. This includes optical super-resolution imaging which is increasingly important for biomedical and healthcare applications. In addition, the candidate will implement and apply image analysis and registration techniques establishing key skills in quantitative data analysis (matrix methods, optimisation). The candidate will be trained in preparing samples for pathology/histology investigations, interact with a pre-clinical tissue bank facility that follows NHS standards and acquire skills in operating advanced optical equipment. He/she will have the opportunity to work in a very interdisciplinary environment and actively contribute to the development of new approaches that will be highly relevant as future healthcare technologies.

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South West England