December 2022 ESRFnews
HiP-CT uncovers long-COVID damage An international team of scientists has used the ESRF s BM18 beamline for hierarchical phase-contrast tomography (HiP-CT) to uncover the mechanism behind pulmonary fibrosis, common to many sufferers of long COVID syndrome. Pulmonary fibrosis is the name for
a variety of different lung diseases involving a progressive scarring of the lung scaffold. Although they can be mitigated somewhat with medication, they are incurable and have a higher mortality rate than many cancers. Some 20% of people hospitalised with COVID-19 develop post-COVID pulmonary fibrosis, which varies greatly in extent and progression, and is predictable only imprecisely via routine clinical imaging. Developed at the ESRF, under
the leadership of UCL, and in collaboration with scientists and clinicians in Germany and many others, and with backing from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, HiP-CT is able to scan entire organs at a resolution of 25 microns, and can zoom in locally to micron resolution, making it 100 times more powerful than clinical imaging. The research team was able to show for the first time, using HiP-CT, that severe post- COVID pulmonary fibrosis involves a mosaic-like change in the lobuli, the smallest lobules of the lungs, as well as
a reduced nutrient and oxygen supply of the tissue due to changes in the blood vessels supplying the lungs. The researchers also showed
that intensive treatment results in increasing new blood-vessel formation, and connective remodelling of the lung tissue, especially in a region known as the lobular septa (Lancet eBioMedicine85 104296). With the new technology of HiP-CT, we were able to show for the first time that the scarring processes in post-COVID fibrosis are the result of generalised vascular damage caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, says Danny Jonigk, RWTH Aachen University Hospital and Hannover Medical School in Germany.
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ID12 shows how to tune molecule-based material
An international collaboration involving scientists from the Centre de Recherche Paul Pascal (CNRS/ University of Bordeaux) and the ESRF have shown how to chemically adjust the electronic structure of a layered metal-organic material to control properties such as electrical conduction and magnetism. This work paves the way for the design of a new generation of conducting and potentially superconducting molecule-based materials.
Molecule-based materials have the ability to be conducting, semiconducting or insulating, while having strong magnetic properties, making them good candidates for various technologies, including spintronics. Specific applications require the properties to be precisely tuned, which is why scientists are keen to understand exactly how the properties arise.
Rodolphe Clérac at the Centre de Recherche Paul Pascal and colleagues have studied molecule-based materials based on chlorine-pyrazine with metal ions of vanadium, titanium or chromium. These can have a layered structure with strong metal-ligand interactions, producing different electronic properties: the vanadium and titanium analogues are an antiferromagnetic insulator and a paramagnetic metal, respectively, whereas the chromium- based compound is a ferrimagnetic semiconductor. Together with measurements of electrical conductivity, magnetoresistance, magnetic properties and specific heat, X-ray absorption spectroscopy carried out at the ESRF s ID12 beamline showed the researchers how the different properties come about (Nat. Commun. 13 5766).
The ID12 beamline is where all questions regarding local magnetic and orbital moments, oxidation state and electronic structures get answers, says Clérac. And if we can t get an answer right away, we have the chance to modify the experimental set-up on the beamline or to imagine new materials to complete the story. What a luxury to work in this unique world-class facility and with its scientists.
HiP-CT slice of a COVID-19 lung highlights normally shaped airways (blue) and those remodelled during pulmonary fibrosis (orange).
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New access modes launch The ESRF has formally launched two new modes of community access proposals, in order to increase the number of experiments, to distribute resources more effectively and to optimise the scientific impact of the new source and instrumentation. The first new type of proposal is the
Block Allocation Group (BAG), in which several independent principal investigators (PIs), working in the same field and sharing the same instrument needs, apply together as a consortium for regular beamtime. Already used by the ESRF structural-biology community for 20 years, BAGs are now being made a possibility for all scientific communities, with the hope that allocation among PIs will improve the selection and efficiency of experiments. The second new type of proposal
is the HUB, in which a number of PIs working within the same scientific theme of societal importance commit
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The historical- materials pilot BAG on the ID13 and ID22 beamlines has already shown promising results.
to collaborate together to coordinate beamtime and share results (as well as knowledge, technology and beamtime data). Pilots for the new access modes
have already delivered successful results in a HUB for battery research on 19 different beamlines (Adv. Energy. Mater.12 2102694), as well as in BAGs for shock physics on ID19 (Nat. Sci. Rep. 10 8455) and historical materials on ID13 and ID22 (Molecules27 27061997). See esrf.fr/CommunityAccess.