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Bio-Imagine: New Ideas for Cell Research
May 7, 2015   
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New ideas for cell, brain and cancer research; collaboration with leading international scientists and research institutions, and new equipment making it possible to generate better images of tissues and cells—these are the results of the European Union’s Bio-Imagine project carried out by the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology in Warsaw.

“When we started the Bio-Imagine project more than three years ago, the aim was to significantly strengthen our research capacity as a national center of excellence in the field of bioimaging, and to improve the image of the Nencki Institute in Europe and worldwide,” says Prof. Adam Szewczyk, director of the Nencki Institute and coordinator of the project. “We believe—and so does the Bio-Imagine International Advisory Board—that we have accomplished this task.”

The project significantly supported the scientific potential of the Nencki Institute. It involved more than a dozen talented professionals at an early stage of their careers. After the project ended and was evaluated, nine of these professionals found employment at the institute. This enabled the institute to expand its range of research topics and establish scientific collaboration with other research centers. Joint undertakings included work on a high-resolution optical microscope together with a group of researchers headed by Prof. Maciej Wojtkowski from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń.

Marta Rucińska, manager of the Bio-Imagine project at the Nencki Institute, said, “We organized three major international conferences with Nobel Prize winners as speakers. We also held three symposia and nine workshops on microscopic imaging and cytometry. Hundreds of scientists from Poland and all over the world participated in these events.”

As part of twinning activities with other research institutions, researchers from the Nencki Institute had a chance to deepen their understanding of interactions between proteins and gain a deeper insight into issues such as the role of the spatial structure of chromosomes in the regulation of gene expression, the structure and functioning of mitochondria, ion channels in cells, and a number of other issues related to neuroscience and fMRI imaging. The Nencki Institute developed or strengthened collaboration with scientific institutions from several countries, including Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, France’s Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, and Britain’s Cambridge University.

During the project, dozens of domestic and foreign experts conducted workshops and seminars for researchers running their own companies or intending to become businessmen in the near future. Issues related to innovative research, creative research team building and ways of developing and strengthening ties between science and business, were discussed during the workshops. Collaboration with six companies was launched during the project in areas such as production of innovative cosmetics, antibacterial and anti-cancer therapy, and treatment of brain tumors and speech defects.

The Bio-Imagine project enabled the institute to purchase an array of modern research equipment, including a modern Zeiss/Yokogawa confocal spinning disc microscope that makes it possible to generate images of processes taking place in living cells. Other purchases included a Guava easyCyte 8HT flow cytometer. The equipment purchased and installed as part of the Bio-Imagine project is used for the study of brain plasticity, long-term memory, and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. The new equipment is also used in cancer therapy and in diagnosing diseases of the endothelium. Apart from Nencki Institute researchers, research groups from other centers have access to this equipment.

Thanks to funds made available during the Bio-Imagine project, the institute helped organize a number of events designed to promote science. These included popular science events such as Brain Awareness Week, Science Picnic with Polish Radio and the Copernicus Science Center, and the Warsaw Science Festival. Open house events for students were also organized, as well as workshops for biology teachers. The total number of participants in these events approached 20,000.
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