The Systems Microscopy Network of Excellence (NoE) is a life science project spearheading a key enabling methodology based on live cell imaging for the development of next-generation systems biology. The project is funded under the 7th Framework Programme (FP7) of the European Union.
The multidisciplinary consortium joins 17 research groups spread over the whole of Europe and is coordinated from Karolinska Institutet. The project was launched 1 January 2011 and will run until the end of 2015. During the course of the project, the network will further tools and strategies to make available to the wider research community, a new approach to the systems biology of the living cell.
Biological processes occur in space and time, but current experimental methods for systems biology are limited in their ability to resolve this spatiotemporal complexity of life. In addition, traditional “omics” methods often suffer from limited sensitivity and need to average over populations of cells at the expense of cell to cell variation. Next-generation systems biology therefore requires methods that can capture data and build models in four dimensions, three-dimensional space and time, and needs to address dynamic events in single living cells. In fact, recent advances in automated fluorescence microscopy, cell microarray platforms, highly specific probes, quantitative image analysis and data mining provide a powerful emerging technology platform to enable systems biology of the living cell. The use of this imaging technology platform, from living cell to algorithm, constitutes a new strategy that has been coined “Systems microscopy” and will be a cornerstone for next-generation systems biology to elucidate and understand complex and dynamic molecular, sub-cellular and cellular networks.
As a paradigm to enable systems biology at the cellular scale of biological organization, the Systems Microscopy NoE will have as its core biological theme two basic but complex cellular processes that are highly relevant to human cancer: cell division and cell migration.
Methods, strategies and tools established here will be applicable to many disease-associated processes and will be instrumental for obtaining a systems level understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying human diseases as manifested at the living cell level. Through close multidisciplinary collaborations in our joint programme of activities this NoE will develop a powerful enabling platform for next-generation systems biology and will apply these tools to understand cellular systems underlying human cancer. This provides a unique opportunity for Europe to acquire a global lead in systems microscopy.