Nanoscale MRI to study cell response

Publishing the research results is a major aspect of a researcher’s life. HOW these results are published can have a major impact on research and its community. What happens if we share outcomes openly, make data public, publish the comments received from colleagues, or test the academic outcomes of other researchers? This falls under the denominator of Open Science, as part and parcel of academic quality. At UMCG, we promote the principles of Open Science by putting every month the spotlight on an academic article that scores well on certain aspects of Open Science, like open data, open peer review, open source, open access reproducibility.

This month we focus on open access with the Open Science Publication of the Month September: Applying NV center-based quantum sensing to study intracellular free radical response upon viral infections by Kaiqi Wu, Thea A. Vedelaar, Viraj G. Damle, Aryan Morita, Julie Mougnaud, Claudia Reyes San Martin, Yue Zhang, Denise P.I. van der Pol, Heidi Ende-Metselaar, Izabela Rodenhuis-Zybert, Romana Schirhagl published in Redox Biology volume 52, Article number: 102279 (2022).

Stress response at the nanoscale level

The group of Prof. Romana Schirhagl at the Department of BioMedical Engineering (UMCG) uses nanoscale MRI – more sensitive than conventional MRI – to study stress response in cells. In their recent publication they connected sensors to viral particles to measure how the cell responds to it by forming free radicals. This has never been done before. “We can see that there are differences in the free radical response locally at the site of the virus, depending on where you measure and when you measure the stress response” explains Prof. Schirhagl, “it's fundamentally interesting to know how the cells interact with the viruses, [. . .] the free radical generation gives information about how the virus is killed” or damaged. With this technique it will be possible to see at the nanoscale level how a cell responds to an antiviral drug, thus giving essential information on drug response. 

Open Access and Fees

Prof. Schirhagl’s research is supported by EU funding, which requires publications to be open access. Prof. Schirhagl mentions her concern for open access fees “Sometimes fees can be substantial. Scientists should not have to pay so much to publish open access [. . .] If funders and the University push for open access, there should be financial support for it. In the last years, the University has been covering the fees, which helps the individual scientists, but still the money comes from somewhere. [. . .]: a lot of money that goes to the publishers.” 

Open Science and Scientists’ Reliability

Will Open Science lead to more reliability in research or to more misinformation? Prof. Schirhagl  thinks that Open Science will not open the door to more misinformation; since the amount of data available is huge and there is more information than it used to be in the past: even if some is not valid, the amount of reliable data will prevail. On the other hand, she thinks that in her field all these data will not directly improve science reliability. “I do not think that the open science movement improves scientists’ reliability” explains Prof. Schirhagl. “I don't think that really changes fundamentally the quality of the data. The amount of people that will actually go through the forest of raw data is so small.”