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I Can See a Solution Here

14 Jul | By Biophotonics.World
I Can See a Solution Here
Aikaterini Pistiki visualizes the properties of bacteria.
Image source: Leibniz IPHT
By: Sven Döring

Aikaterini Pistiki got to know Leibniz IPHT from Athens, as a research partner in the joint sepsis project. Today, she works in Jena and wants to find out how to track down multidrug-resistant bacteria 

"Guests don't do the dishes", Aikaterini Pistiki orders warmly and takes the cup out of the visitor's hand at the Center for Applied Research. Two days ago the young German-Greek scientist returned from Athens. And she is just getting used to the tranquil city of Jena again. "The noise is missing." She laughs. 

Nine months ago, Katerina – as she briefly introduces herself to her German colleagues – started as a post- doc at Leibniz IPHT. Her research area: multidrug-resistant germs. She wants to find out how sensitive germs can be quickly differentiated from resistant ones. So how can we quickly identify which germs doctors can treat with common antibiotics and against which only very few preparations still show an effect – if at all. Aikaterini Pistiki uses UV-Raman spectroscopy to examine the bacteria. The way in which a bacterial cell scatters the light enables her to visualize its chemical com- position – to obtain its optical fingerprint. The light analysis method is highly sophisticated and Leibniz IPHT is one of the world's most distinguished institutes that is advancing its research for applications in the life sciences. 

This was a reason for Aikaterini Pistiki to move from Athens to Jena. "I have a background in clinical research and routine," she says. "I know the problems in diagnostics. And here I see a solution." She has already worked on part of this solution in Athens – together with a team from Leibniz IPHT. A biologist by training, she was a doctoral student at the University Hospital in Athens when she joined the European research project Hemospec. Together with a research team from Jena and Athens and partners from France, Italy, Denmark and Portugal, she developed a new method for diagnosing sepsis. 

The dissertation was finished, Aikaterini Pistiki defended it and then things went quickly. "On Monday I got my certificate, on Friday I flew to Jena to start at the hospital." At the Center for Sepsis Control and Care (CSCC) she spent three months researching how to examine white blood cells with Raman spectroscopy. "In the case of an infection, the blood's own immune cells try to fight the pathogen," explains the scientist. "To do this they mobilise molecular mechanisms that lead to a change in their chemical composition." This can be detected with Raman spectroscopy and provides a key to finding out what kind of pathogen causes a sepsis. 

Back in Athens, Aikaterini Pistiki tested a sepsis detection device built by the Hemospec team in Jena and Italy in two clinical trials. A third followed in Jena. With their new analyzing technique, the researchers were able to determine withina very short time whether sepsis was present or not. The project was successfully completed in early 2018 and the biologist's enthusiasm for the spectroscopic analysis method continued. "Microbiological analyses need time," she says, "I see a great potential for more effective diagnostic procedures here." 

This is what the scientist is focusing on in her new project. Her goal is to identify multidrug-resistant bacteria using Raman spectroscopy faster than the laboratory tests that have been used up to now. In order to achieve this, she moved from Athens to Jena in autumn 2019 as a fellow of the European postdoctoral program Multiply. She is investigating multidrug-resistant bacteria in a further study in the Carbatech project with the University of Thessaly in Larisa. Her measurements are going well, says Aikaterini Pistiki. Theresults show that her approachcould deliver meaningful results. She will soon be working at the hospital again, then for a fewmonths in a medical technology and biotechnology researchcenter with close ties to industry. "It pays off," she says,"to always have an immediate connection to the application." 

And Jena? She likes it, she feels she has already been well received, says Aikaterini Pistiki on the roof terrace of the Center for Applied Research. Especially since Germany is not new to her. She was five years old when she moved with her family to Metzingen, at the foot of the Swabian Alb. "Nothing for me", she remembers and laughs. She went back to Greece to study. Now it's time to turn the page. "Only the weather could be better," says Aikaterini Pistiki, looking at the cloudy panorama of the Saale valley. "But in Jena it's beautifully green." 


Source: Leibniz IPHT







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