Life Science Informatics

Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT

Generating better information for health

The Life Science Informatics department develops new approaches to produce highly specific information on diseases and individual patients.

After the sequencing of the human genome had been successfully completed, automatic instruments and computerized data analysis moved into the focus of biotechnology and medicine. On all levels, from molecular interaction to cellular function, tissue or organ structure, and the course of a disease in an individual patient, new instruments can produce information about the processes involved in a disease and can help to improve diagnosis and therapy.

This potential motivates our R&D in the field of information-intensive instruments using optical and electronic detection methods. We develop novel components, like fluidic microsystems to study cells and molecules, smart scanning microscopes and software for image analysis and object detection. We test and validate complete applications in cooperation with their users. We use our components to build application-specific systems that provide seamless integration in state-of-the-art network infrastructures and mobile access.

Computer scientists, engineers and natural scientists in two close collaborating groups work in projects on:

High Content Analysis and software-intensive instruments (HCA)

Detection of structures, states and signals is a major component of automated instruments. The HCA group investigates detection methods and the information processing involved. A user-centered design approach guides the development of our technology: Users can adapt it without re-programming.

Biomolecular Optical Systems (BioMOS)

To build information-generating instruments you need to understand and control the interaction between assay and sensor system. The BioMOS group investigates microsystems to hold and treat biomolecular assays and multi-parametric, in particular optical sensor systems. We build systems incorporating these technologies and validate them in biological applications.

Research involving both groups

Intra-operative molecular diagnostics 

During cancer surgery, the surgeon takes minimal tissue samples using a navigated ablator attached to a microfluidic diagnostic system that detects cancerous cells in the probe. The system helps the surgeon optimize and validate intra-operative decisions.

Adaptive scanning in automated microscopy

To detect patterns in 'large' assay areas, our system first produces a low-resolution overview scan. In this scan our software locates suspect patterns. For a representative sample of these patterns our system produces and analyses high-resolution scans. In particular for tissue probes, this two-step procedure produces high-confidence results in very short time.

Automated electro-physiology using stem cell models

We use heart cells derived from stem cells as test subjects in our fluidic system, where they are exposed to substances under investigation and continually monitored for optical and electrical reactions. This helps to reduce animal experiments.

Projects

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