Rittscher Group: for non-scientists
An introduction to our work for people who are not experts:
Spying on microscopic life
Since Antonie van Leeuwenhoek reported the discovery of bacteria, blood cells and muscle fibers in the late 17th century, microscopy continues to play a crucial role in life science research and clinical medicine. Technical breakthroughs - such as green fluorescent protein (GFP) - now allow us to study the inner workings of cells in unprecedented detail and accuracy.
Modelling life in a dish
In vitro experiments, i.e. experiments outside a living organism, are important to study mechanisms of disease and develop new drugs. Thanks to advances in technology, we can now grow cells in a dish in complex ways that have more similarities to how they grow in living organisms. Aided by modern robotic imaging systems, microscopy imaging allows us to use these cell cultures to study many different biological processes and test reactions to chemical compounds and changes in environmental conditions.
Diagnosis of disease
Rudolf Virchow developed the first systematic method of autopsy, involving surgery and studies with a microscope. This laid the foundations for the field of pathology and by the late 1920s pathology was a fully developed medical specialty. Today, microscopic examination of samples of patients' tissues - known as histopathology - plays an important part in determining how a patient will be treated. Using computers to help to interpret microscopy images - known as digital pathology - is beginning to change the way we handle and process histology images.
Automatic quantitative interpretation
Videos capturing biological processes or images of intricate biological structures are too complicated to be analysed manually. Even a very basic task such as counting the number of cells in an image, is very time consuming and prone to human error. Today, computer-assisted tools are being used to extract a wealth of information from biomedical image data. Computers also help to improve accuracy.
The same technology that enables face recognition and can detect people or objects in images, which is now in almost all smartphones, can be used to analyse patterns and structures on the microscopic level. Our work is developing tools that address specific challenges in cell and tissue imaging. We are also working on ways to put together information from images with other information about the patient's medical history, genetics etc.