From Molecular Machines to Networks of Excitable Cells
Cardiomyocytes and Neurons have many physiological properties. Many disease mechanisms that disrupt network function both in cardiac and neural cells are rooted in nanoscale functional units. At the MBExC we integrate studies on excitable cells of the cardiac and neural systems to obtain novel information far beyond the scope of conventional research programmes that apply an interdisciplinary approach to only one of these classical fields of biomedical research.
MBExC works to establish quantitative nanophysiology, with a focus on elucidating the structure and function of the nanoscale functional units that mediate gene expression and its regulation, protein assembly and targeting, as well as Ca2+ signalling and Ca2+-triggered membrane fusion in health and disease. Employing multiscale analysis, MBExC addresses fundamental principles of cardiomyocytes and neurons at increasing levels of complexity. For example, cryo-electron tomography will close the gap between the atomic structure of individual proteins and the in situ structure of functional multi-component units at the nanoscale. Optical nanoscopy is used to analyse nanoscale functional units such as Ca2+ channel clusters, and phase contrast X-ray tomography is a applied to simultaneously image millions of cells in cardiac and neural tissues.The MBExC comprises three research areas: Quantitative BioImaging, Molecular Machines, and Excitable Cells in Networks. These research areas provide an important common ground for communication and collaboration, and their integration renders MBExC a unique research environment that is able to tackle far-reaching tasks by bringing together different domains from multiple disciplines. The research programme is implemented along three Lines of Research, each comprising two interdisciplinary Research Alliances.