PhD Corner: Interview of L.HOF and T.MORETH


Lotta Hof - Till Moreth


Lotta HOF is a PhD from Goethe University, in Frankfurt am Main. She studied molecular biology and molecular genetics in Chironomidae before specializing in “Cell Biology and Physiology” in master’s. Currently, she is working with the group of Prof. Stelzer on the LSFM4Life project, more precisely on the physical characterization of the pancreatic organoids in order to provide a quality control system with Till Moreth.

Till MORETH is also a PhD from Goethe University where he started the “Cell Biology and Physiology” master’s program before switching to “Interdisciplinary Neuroscience” as he wanted to focus on medical research. Currently, he is working with the group of Prof. Stelzer on the LSFM4Life project, more precisely on the physical characterization of the pancreatic organoids in order to provide a quality control system with Lotta Hof.

The interview

Question 1: Hello Lotta and Till, in which field did you do your master’s and why did you chose these fields ?

Lotta: During my undergraduate studies I got a more general overview of molecular biology and in my bachelor thesis I focused on molecular genetics in Chironomidae. I then chose “Cell Biology and Physiology” to extend my knowledge and skills to cell biology since it is closer to medical research.
The program offered basic modules on cell biology and several possibilities to do internships in research groups at the university or the clinic in Frankfurt, which was what I was looking for.

Till: I started with the “Cell Biology and Physiology” program because I am interested in cell biology in general. With the offered internships and modules I thought I would get inside in many different fields in the range of cell biology topics.
After a few weeks I realized that the program “Interdisciplinary Neuroscience” stood close together with the “Cell Biology and Physiology” program but with a stronger focus on medical research. For example the development and implantation of cochlear implants or investigations in the field of brain analysis with a close contact to patients.
With the switch after the first semester I gained insides in the basic knowledge of cell biology and could also stay closer to applications and medical research fields. For me this was the perfect combination and I am still very happy that the University and those who were responsible for the programs supported me at this time.

Question 2: You are working with the group of Prof. Stelzer on the LSM4LIFE project. On what are you working?

Lotta: In this project, we aim to physically characterize the pancreatic organoids to later provide a quality control system. Therefore, we establish the organoid culture in our laboratory and image the organoids mainly with light sheet-based fluorescence microscopes, but also with confocal fluorescence or wide field microscopes. Then we will complete the survey with subsequent quantitative image analysis.
We intend to perform live imaging and endpoint analysis of immunofluorescently stained organoids, but will also execute additional molecular biological analysis.

Till: A major goal of our group is to pursue experiments in the life science under close-to-nature conditions and to quantitatively evaluate the results. Next to the coordination of the project by my supervisor Dr. Francesco Pampaloni, the physical characterization of the pancreatic organoids is our major task in this project. This includes the determination of cell number and size of the Organoids as well as physiological variations in the shape and many other parameters. To define these, we use high end and state of the art light sheet microscopes like monolithic light sheet-based fluorescence microscopy and laser scanning microscopes.

In detail, my colleague Lotta Hof and I developed and adjust methods to mount already grown and fixed organoids into the different microscopes and tested different methods to enhance the quality of the images in such a way that it is possible to quantify and characterize the organoids. A few weeks ago, we also started with our own mouse pancreatic organoid culture and currently we focus on the adaption of our methods to record living organoids. Prospectively we also want to establish a human organoid culture to switch our focus more to the human, since it is the overall goal to develop a cell-based therapy of type 1 diabetes.

Question 3: How did you end up working for this project? What do you like about it?

Lotta: When I was working on my master thesis in the group of Prof. Stelzer I witnessed the application process and in the end also the approval of the LSFM4Life project. Several people in our group were involved in the application so there was a huge relief after the approval. I then had a closer look at the project and applied for the open PhD position.
I like about the LSFM4Life project, that it comprises researchers and companies from different fields within one project. I personally, as a young researcher, benefit from the expertise of all the partners, but also from the responsibility to establish a new method in our laboratory and contribute with my work to a project with larger significance in diabetes research.

Till: After I finished my Master thesis in the Lab of Prof. Stelzer under the supervision of Dr. Francesco Pampaloni I worked for one year as a consultant, but I always stayed in close contact with Francesco. After I decided to go back to the university to do a Phd, Francesco told me about the LSFM4Life project and I was really interested in it. He sent me the project description and I was immediately fascinated.
For me the most important point of this project is the overall goal to develop a personalized and new approach to treat Diabetes 1. With the recently developed pancreatic organoid model I think the chances to make a huge step forward is done. To take part in this project and to investigate these organoids is fascinating and challenging in the same way. This opportunity combines perfectly my interests in cell biology, microscopy and also has the perspective of a clinical application and potentially help people in the future.

Question 4: Do you think the project is different from what you’ve been doing before because it has many partners around Europe? Does it affect your work?

Lotta: I think it is different, because the work of several groups not only from universities but also from companies has to be coordinated and it is not the same as working with someone who is sitting in the same building. However, with the technology today, the data can be transferred easily. So far, everyone I got in contact with was very helpful and eager to contribute as much as possible to the project. I think in general it has a positive effect when different people from distinct fields and countries contribute to one project.

Till: The combination of academia and companies is nothing really usual in the biological research landscape and offers a lot of new perspectives and chances. In my past I mainly worked with colleges in Germany but today it is not difficult to stay in contact all over the world and therefore I don’t think that the project is different because of the distribution of the partners but more because of the multidisciplinary of all of them.

Question 5: What’s next for you?

Lotta: So far my colleague Till Moreth and I worked in parallel on establishing the organoid culture, adapting the mounting methods for the microscopes, immunofluorescent staining protocols and other methods. Since we now have a stable organoid culture, we will soon be able to collect more data which then has to be evaluated. Further, in the near future both of us will focus on separate research projects which will hopefully help the LSFM4Life project to succeed.

Till: Next to establishing the human organoid culture and the determining their physical parameters, my personal interest is to understand the formation process of the organoids. For me it is fascinating to understand the mechanisms behind this process and I think it will also be of great interest for LSFM4Life.

Their educational background

Lotta Hof started in 2009 her studies in “Molecular Biology” at the Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz with a main focus on genetics. Before she finished her bachelor degree in Mainz in 2013, she spent a whole academic year as an Erasmus student at the University of Birmingham, UK, where she was working on a project examining the mating behavior of Drosophila melanogaster.
In 2013 she went to Frankfurt for her master’s in “Cell Biology and Physiology”. In her master thesis, which she has completed in the group of Prof. Stelzer, she focused on the role of Bag3 in mammary gland development.

Till Moreth started in 2009 the Bachelor program “Bioscience” at the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main. Three years later, he finished it with a focus on the behavior of Honey Bees, it responds to Neonicotinoids.
Then he started the Master program “Cell Biology and Physiology” in Frankfurt. After one semester he switched to the program “Interdisciplinary Neuroscience” and finished it at the group of Prof. Stelzer with a focus at single cell migration in Glioma spheroids. Afterwards he worked for one year at the technology consulting company BCNP where he got some interesting insights into the pharmaceutical and biotechnological economy.