The Foundation For Polish Science (Polish: Fundacja na rzecz Nauki Polskiej, FNP) is an independent, non-profit making organisation which aim at improving the opportunities for doing research in Poland. Established in 1991, the Foundation's mission is to provide assistance and support to the scientific community in Poland.

In July 2017, FNP has approved and subsidized three projects at IPPT PAN:

I. FIRST TEAM (the aim of the programme is to improve the human potential of the R&D sector, support first research teams supervised by PhDs at the early stage of their careers. Support under the programme will be provided to teams conducting research at research units or companies in Poland, working in the most innovative areas and having a scientific partner, i.e. local or foreign research partner)

    Project coordinator: Piotr Korczyk, Ph.D., Dr Habil

    The project goal is to develop smart microfluidic architectures with precise instructions embedded into the design of the chip.

    In microfluidics, a tiny droplet (less than 1 microliter) can be treated as an isolated biochemical reactor. Generation of a large number of such droplets, coupled with the ability to mix chemical reagents inside droplets, enables conducting long series of experiments simultaneously.

    In this project, the microfluidic solutions will be developed, which on the one hand will provide high precision of operations on droplets, and on the other hand will be easy to implement in Lab on a Chip devices.

    This will be achieved through the construction of special geometries of the microfluidic channels inducing the formation of droplets and then the self-regulation of the flow of droplets resulting in the spontaneous execution of specific operations.

    The solutions developed in the project will be applied to elaborate of an automated device that implements any sequence of operations on droplets. This programmable, micro-laboratory will allow for conducting of biological testing or diagnostic procedures outside a specialized laboratory.

    Fig. 1 Microfluidic system producing droplets of varying reagent concentrations

    Project coordinator: Michał Komorowski, Ph.D.

    The main goal of this proposal is to improve our understanding how cellular signalling processes can derive a variety of distinct outputs from complex inputs, and how these mechanisms can be harnessed to glean therapeutically useful behaviour. Current tools of information theory are applicable for very small systems only and have therefore limited use in modelling of biological systems. To overcome this limitation and achieve this ambition novel analytical and computational tools of mathematical information theory are required, which are suitable to reflect the complex biochemistry of signalling processes. We will make use of concepts of statistical inference theory not used so far in the context of biochemical signalling. The new mathematical tools will open novel approaches to address essential theoretical aspects of signal transduction, including receptor theory.

II. HOMING (the aim of the programme is to improve the human potential in the R&D sector by financing breakthrough projects designed as postdoctoral fellowships, carried out by young doctors (postdocs) from all over the world, with a special focus on the return to Poland of outstanding scientists of Polish descent, at research units or companies in Poland, working in the most innovative areas, with the involvement of a scientific partner, i.e. local or foreign research partner)

    Project coordinator: Izabela K. Piechocka Ph. D., Eng.

    Project in collaboration with AMOLF (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) and ICFO (Barcelona, Spain).

    The goal of this project is to monitor in situ changes in the bulk structure of fibrin networks, individual fibrin filaments and embedded platelets in the presence of shear flow, as a model system that mimics blood clotting in vivo.

    Blood clotting prevents extensive bleeding in response to blood vessels injury. During the first stage of this process, blood cells such as platelets stick to the vessel wall and form a plug that becomes reinforced by a fibrin network. As the damaged tissue heals, the blood clot dissolves in order to prevent a life-threatening vessels blocking.

    Inside the body, the formation of blood clots takes place in the presence of flowing blood that exerts continuous shear forces on the clot structure. Therefore, in order to resist shear flow deformations, a blood clot have to be very strong and elastic. Indeed, blood clots are recognized to be very strong and elastic which they owe to the presence of fibrin network. This network can stiffen up to 1000-fold when sheared or stretched and its constituent filaments can be stretched up to 4-fold their original length without breaking. The flowing blood strengthens thus blood clots by increasing the resistance of fibrin network.

    What is the exact role of the blood flow in the fibrin network organization and fibrin-platelets interactions? The goal of this project is to provide answer to this question by reconstructing three-dimensional fibrin networks outside the human body and subjecting them to continuous shear flow. To this end, we will use a special flow chamber that can generate shear flows that closely mimics the physiological conditions of blood flow inside blood vessels. We will mount this flow chamber on the stage of a light microscope and monitor in live changes in fibrin network structure. In addition, we will use specialized high-resolution microscopes (in collaboration with abroad lab partners) to study the role of shear flow in spatial organization of cell membrane receptors that help platelets to adhere to fibrin network.

    This work will help us to improve our understanding of the blood clotting mechanism, adhesion of platelets to fibrin network and their interactions, in relevant to natural conditions. It will also help us to reveal the role of shear flow in organization of fibrin networks formed in patients with diagnosed haemophilia or thrombosis where the structure of fibrin clots is altered. Given its natural function in wound repair, fibrin is also a popular biomaterial for clinical applications: very often used in haemostatic sealants and in tissue engineering of cartilage, cardiac muscle, skin, nerve, and vascular tissue. Therefore, a deep insight into fibrin organization is an important step towards future application of fibrin as a scaffold material for tissue engineering.

    Fig. 2 Fibrin forms a mesh of long and flexible filaments that overlay blood platelets at the site of injury