Female Scientists 2020
Luisa Ickes, Assistant Professor, Department of Space, Earth and Environment, Microwave and Optical Remote Sensing.
Bild: Lisa Thanner
Thi Ngoc Nhu Phan, Associate senior lecturer, Department of Chemistry & Molecular Biology
Bild: Lisa Thanner
Nano-scale pictures of molecules changing in neuronal stem cells
Stem cells can be changed into different kinds of cells in the body. Molecules in stem cells have a certain lifetime and they are gradually replaced when they are used up (this is called turnover) to maintain proper cellular differentiation – the process by which the cells change from one type to another. When this turnover does not work properly in the brain, it is thought to lead to neurodegenerative diseases. However, the turnover process is very complex and there is a lack of good analytical tools to measure these molecules. My research focuses on developing a state-of-the-art combination of technologies to make images of molecules at super small sizes and to use these methods to look at molecules in single cells and small parts (nano-scale) of biological cells.
My plan is to develop new chemistry to make these molecules easier to see in microscopes and in a device for measuring their molecular weight called a mass spectrometer. This will allow me to obtain very detailed pictures of how molecules are located in cells and how they change with time. We think that molecular location and turnover in stem cells are altered and this guides how cells transform into different cells. My research will provide information about how this works so that we can understand how stem cells can be controlled to make the cells and tissues that we want for eventual medical applications. The fundamental science learned in these experiments will be important to the biomedical field, particularly regenerative medicine and disease modelling.