Taking a closer look at infected cells to better understand COVID-19

EMBL electron microscopy specialists collaborate with researchers from Heidelberg University Hospital to understand the changes occurring in cell structures upon SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Laboratory Officer Nicole Schieber working in EMBL's Electron Microscopy Core Facility. PHOTO: Viola Oorschot/EMBL
Laboratory Officer Nicole Schieber working in EMBL's Electron Microscopy Core Facility. PHOTO: Viola Oorschot/EMBL

Little is known about the mechanisms used by coronavirus to infect and destroy its target cells in humans. To better understand the changes in cell structures occurring in cells infected by SARS-CoV-2, Ralf Bartenschlager’s lab, in the Department of Infectious Diseases at Heidelberg University Hospital, is sharing samples of infected human lung cells and biopsies of COVID-19 patients with a team of EMBL electron microscopy (EM) experts, led by Yannick Schwab, Head of EMBL’s Electron Microscopy Core Facility (EMCF) and team leader in the Cell Biology and Biophysics Unit. The precision of high-resolution EM images will enable the scientists to visualise and identify structures in cells that undergo changes after infection with the virus. The results of this collaborative work will be a stepping stone to support the development of new treatments against COVID-19. 

The EMCF offers a wide range of services to scientists from EMBL and other institutions. Researchers benefit from the support of EMCF experts at every step, including sample preparation, image acquisition using various state-of-the-art technologies, and data analysis. Together, 14 scientists from the EMCF and the Schwab team are currently devoting their time and expertise to advance COVID-19 research. They are working intensively, either remotely or on the EMBL Heidelberg campus, to generate and analyse high-resolution EM images, supported by their industry partner Carl Zeiss Microscopy, and by EMBL IT Services. Their dedication will allow critical knowledge to be shared with the international research community, advancing the fight against coronavirus.

Tags: cell biology, collaboration, coronavirus, covid-19, electron microscopy, microscopy, sars-cov-2, schwab


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