The retromer system is a biological system that cells use to recycle proteins. The mechanics of this system is largely unknown. I am very happy to have a chance to help lift the veil a little bit. Doing so not only helps us understand this important cellular system, but it also gives us insight in a possible cause of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, with which defects in the retromer system recently have been associated.
My role in this process as a physicist is focused on converting images into meaningful numbers from which we will be able to draw conclusions about the retromer. While doing so, I use advanced algorithms to identify structures in images. Where up to now most work on has been done on images containing diffraction limited points, we aim to do the same for images containing larger structures, using novel techniques from the field of computer vision.
Together with Lei, who understands the biological implications and complications of this project better than me, we hope to unravel the mechanisms of retromer-mediated recycling. I’m looking forward to understanding how the retromer recycles proteins by, presumably, sorting of proteins, fission of endosomes and transport of cargo.
Technical specialist, Netherlands Cancer Institute