Disorders of the heart and the brain are leading causes of disability and death. The electrically excitable cells of these widely distinct organs, cardiomyocytes and neurons, have surprisingly many physiological properties in common. They both rely on nanoscale functional units to produce their physiological outputs as part of electrically active networks. Importantly, many disease mechanisms that disrupt both cardiac and neural network function are rooted in such nanoscale functional units. Despite these similarities, research usually focuses on a single system, heart or brain, and on a single observation scale, such as molecules or cells or organs.
The goal of the cluster of excellence Multiscale Bioimaging: from Molecular Machines to Networks of Excitable Cells (MBExC) is to decipher disease-relevant nanoscale functional units in cardiac and neural excitable cells. Both in the heart and in the brain, this goal can only be attained by a multiscale approach that integrates research on nanoscale units with analyses of excitable cell networks. MBExC will provide insights that could not be achieved by studying each physiological system separately. Breakthroughs in optical nanoscopy, X-ray imaging, and electron tomography make it possible to close the gaps in our approach, e.g. between the molecular and cellular scales. In line with the role of the Göttingen Campus in pioneering such approaches, MBExC will develop and apply innovative technologies to study nanoscale functional units, and provide unique insights into both cardiac and neural networks.
In summary, MBExC will fundamentally advance our understanding of cardiac and neural nanophysiology, provide research training and career opportunities, transfer knowledge, and translate insights into novel therapies for disorders affecting the heart, the brain, or both.