Mitochondria transplantation with FluidFM

Featured FluidFM user: Christoph Gäbelein

Today, we are happy to introduce you to Christoph Gäbelein who developed a FluidFM-based approach to extract, inject and transplant organelles from and into living cells with subcellular spatial resolution using FluidFM technologies. So, let's meet Christoph.

Christoph Georg Erich Gäbelein, PhD. Institute of Microbiology, ETH Zürich, Switzerland

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Cytosurge: Hi Christoph, FluidFM enables novel experimental designs for a wide range of cellular and subcellular manipulations. How is FluidFM advancing your research?

Christoph: Recent publications suggest that mitochondria are frequently exchanged between cells in different settings, mostly after stress events like strokes. To date, it is difficult to gain insights into these mitochondrial transfer events due to a lack of precise tools. FluidFM enabled to transplant mitochondria from cell to cell at high efficiency and maintaining viability, which enabled us to follow the fate of transplanted mitochondrial subpopulations for the first time. The volume scalability additionally allows us to inject variable amounts of mitochondria, which will enable clear dose-response relationship studies in the future.

Cytosurge: Why is there such an excitement around mitochondria transplantation and where do you see your research advancing this area?

Christoph: Mitochondria play a central role in all eukaryotic cells and link cellular metabolism to cell fate decisions and aging. Initially they were believed to be strictly inherited vertically, from mother to daughter cells. The fact that they can be transferred in between cells opens new perspectives for the treatment of mitochondria-associated diseases or aging and puts stem cell therapies into a new light. At the moment however, mechanistic insights that would be required for precise application of such therapeutic approaches are lacking. We seek to gain these insights. Furthermore, we are currently trying to understand how mitochondria, likely descending from an alpha-proteobacterium, came into being in the first place.

Cytosurge: What defined your path as a researcher, why did you study mitochondria?

Christoph: My work here at the institute of Microbiology at ETH in the group of Julia Vorholt gave me the opportunity to study mitochondria from a totally new and fascinating perspective! As a motivated sportsman, I was naturally drawn to the cellular components that produce the chemical energy equivalents that enable me to run or swim. As a microbiologist I find them mesmerizing as the remnants of an endosymbiotic relationship between two types of bacteria that eventually led to the formation of eukaryotic cells.

Cytosurge: Thank you for the interview and your insights, Christoph. We wish you all the best for your future.

Mitochondria transplantation between living cells.

Find out more about Christoph's research in his latest paper.

C. Gäbelein, Q. Feng, E. Sarajlic, T. Zambelli, O. Guillaume-Gentil, B. Kornmann & J. Vorholt. Mitochondria transplantation between living cells. (2021). BioRxiv.

Time lapse image series of a single transplanted mitochondrion (su9-mCherry). The organelle donor was a HeLa cell, recipient cell is a U2OS-cell with a fluorescently labelled mitochondrial network (su9-BFP). Scale bar: 10 µm.