Physics of the living cell

Period of duration of course
Course info
Number of course hours
Number of hours of lecturers of reference
Number of hours of supplementary teaching

Modalità esame

Oral exam


IV and V year students

(Exam can also be borrowed by postgraduate students, recommended for "Nanosciences", "MEMOS", "Data Science", "Physics", "Neurosciences")


Physics of the living cell

(basic principles, open questions, advanced methods)



- From Schrodinger to present: Introduction to Biophysics, applied Science.


Fluorescence microscopy to explore the biological world

- Fluorescence: basic principles and properties

- Methods based on fluorescence:

o Intrinsic cellular fluorophores and label-free microscopy: applications

o Genetically encoded fluorescence: green fluorescent protein and its mutants

o New frontiers: organic fluorophores for live cell imaging

- Fluorescence-based methods to probe molecular interactions:

o Energy transfer by Forster resonance

o Fluorescence anisotropy

o Lifetime of fluorescence and its sensitivity at the nanoscale (measurement and analysis methods)

- Fluorescence-based methods to probe molecular dynamics:

o Perturbation-based methods: e.g. Recovery of fluorescence after photobleaching

o Fluctuation-based methods: from single-point to spatiotemporal (scanning, raster, pair) fluorescence correlation spectroscopy

o Location-based methods: tracking of single molecules

o Orbital tracking and feedback-based imaging

- Fluorescence-based methods to obtain super resolution:

o Microscopy for “chemical expansion”

o Localization methods

o Localization methods using photo-activated fluorophores (PALM and STORM microscopy)

o STED microscopy


Biological case studies:

Case study 1. Membrane heterogeneity: does it exist? What functional role?

Case study 2. Organization of the prokaryotic and eukaryotic cytoplasm: molecular crowding and membraneless organelles

Case study 3. The nuclear pore puzzle: which structure? Which function?

Case study 4. Dynamic measurements in dynamic systems: how to study sub-cellular organelles?

Case study 5. Molecular crowding and its regulation with circadian rhythms: what does the neuron teach us? (Prof. Ratto)


Obiettivi formativi

Educational goals: Learning the basic principles that regulate the structure and activity of cells, with particular attention to nanoscale processes. Learning of the most advanced methods for studying the mechanisms presented. Knowledge of the frontier areas of research on the cellular and sub-cellular scale.

Riferimenti bibliografici

Phillips et al. Physical Biology of the Cell