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Master's Research Project

Seeing inside the synapse: From microscopy to nanoscopy
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Project description

Background information

Inside every living cell, dynamic interactions between proteins regulate and drive important biological processes that are essential to life. In the field of neuroscience, understanding the molecular details behind synaptic plasticity has been an intense area of research due to their effect on learning and memory formation.

What is FLIN?

In order to understand the role of synapses and how they can be manipulated to enhance learning and memory, we need to be able to visualize the activities of individual proteins. However, due to the diffraction limitation of the light microscopy system, the nanoscale architectures of the synapse have been too small to be resolved. Nevertheless, recent developments in super-resolution microscopy have provided researchers with the necessary tools to bypass this limitation. With these new tools, researchers from the Neurophotonics Center at the University of Laval have developed a novel imaging technique for visualizing and quantifying the role of the key neurotransmitter receptors in synaptic plasticity. The technique, known as Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging Nanoscopy (FLIN), combines a super resolution microscopy technique called STimulated Emission Depletion microscopy (STED), with Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) and Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging Microscopy (FLIM) to bring us a step closer to understanding the role of neuronal synapses in learning and memory.

Goals

In order to disseminate this important finding beyond the limit of traditional text-based journal publications, I aim to produce a 3D animation that will introduce the technique in an aesthetically pleasing yet intuitive manner. As molecular processes are involved in nearly all biological systems, promoting the use of this technique is expected to have great impact in not only neuroscience, but in diverse fields of biology.