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High-speed mid-infrared photothermal imaging of fatty acids and lipid droplets in living cells

Research project Florian Schmidt at the Department of Applied Physics and Electronics at Umeå University, receives SEK 3.6 million from the Swedish Research Council to develop optical methods that enable studying how fatty acids are taken up by cells and form lipid droplets.

Fatty acids (FAs) are a group of lipids with multiple, pivotal functions in cells, including energy production and storage, and signalling to control cell proliferation, metabolism and apoptosis. After cellular uptake, which usually happens within seconds, FAs are involved in the formation of lipid droplets (LDs), whose size, number and dynamics are related to the cell state.

Head of project

Florian Schmidt
Associate professor

Project overview

Project period:

2023-01-01 2026-12-31

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Applied Physics and Electronics

Research area

Chemical sciences, Molecular medicine, Physical sciences

External funding

Swedish Research Council

Project description

Uptake, distribution and metabolism of free FAs occur fast and are tightly regulated in healthy cells. If deregulated, lipid signalling contributes to inflammation, cancer and metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, and can ultimately trigger cell death. Exactly how free FAs enter cells and form LDs is still poorly understood, mainly due to the lack of non-invasive imaging techniques with sufficient speed, sensitivity and selectivity at high spatial resolution to monitor the location of free FAs during cellular uptake in vivo. In this project, we will use widefield mid-infrared photothermal microscopy to image FAs tagged with vibrational probes absorbing in the cell-silent spectral region. Live cell WHIP imaging with 300 nm spatial resolution, 100x100 μm field-of-view and full-frame image acquisition rates up to kHz will be implemented. The aim is to visualize the uptake process of alkyne-tagged palmitic acid in living 3T3-L1 model cells and the behaviour of LDs with sub-second time resolution. The results will be analysed together with fluorescence and mass spectrometry data in order to validate models of FA uptake.

External funding

Latest update: 2023-01-26