Donation towards new advanced microscope and competence centre

Confocal microscope image of an unknown fungus grown in a lab.

Confocal microscope image of an unknown fungus grown in a lab. It had previously only been seen in DNA from soil samples. Photo: Veera Tuovinen-Nogerius

The entrepreneur Sverker Lerheden has donated SEK 7.5 million to Uppsala University in the name of his wife, Birgitta Sintring Lerheden. The money will be used to purchase an advanced microscope that makes it possible to study and describe hitherto unknown microorganisms directly in complex samples in 3D, as well as to pay for the launch of a competence centre for visualising hidden diversity.

The microscope to be purchased is what is known as a confocal microscope. It uses lasers to create three-dimensional images of fluorescent signals from biological samples. By capturing or filtering out the natural fluorescence emitted by different organisms in combination with specific dyes, it is possible to examine either individual species or study how different species relate to each other and how they live.

“We want to work on hidden diversity because we only know about a small proportion of every species. Among fungi, which my group studies, only between one and five percent of all species have been described. Most of the fungi we find are only known to us through their DNA sequences. We cannot describe them if we cannot see them. We need an image or a cultivation, and only then can we give them a name,” explains Anna Rosling, head of the Department of Ecology and Genetics and the person in charge of the future Competence Centre for Visualisation of Hidden Diversity at the Evolutionary Biology Centre (EBC).

Biological diversity in complex samples

Several research groups at Uppsala University are way ahead in terms of exploring and mapping biological diversity in complex samples. They mainly study fungi, single-celled parasites, algae and other single-celled ‘eukaryotic’ organisms, i.e. organisms with a cell nucleus.

Thanks to the donation, a new competence centre for large-scale mapping of hidden diversity and its functions will now be able to be launched at EBC.

“The planned competence centre will enable us to take on Linnaeus’s project of describing all living things,” notes Rosling.

Åsa Malmberg

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