I arrived home from Germany just before Christmas (right before travel to the UK was cut due to Covid, luckily!), so here’s a little look back at my placement there.
All in all the experience was fantastic, and was amazing for both professional and personal development. I’m extremely grateful to Dr. Alex Nyström for hosting me and the DAAD for funding my stay.
I manged to collect a bunch of data and I have lots of samples that I can continue to analyse now I’m back in Liverpool. Briefly, I generated some new stable cell lines – immortalised normal human keratinocytes (provided by the Nyström Lab) stably overexpressing our favourite protein: LaNt α31.
Using these new cell lines, and another newly generated stably expressing cell line using corneal epithelial cells (hTCEpi), I set up organotypic cocultures. These are 3D culture models where the epithelial cells differentiate into skin or cornea-like structures on top of a collagen gel embedded with fibroblasts. My experiments were investigating how LaNt overexpression effects the morphology and development of these in vitro skin/corneal equivalents, and, thereafter, to go deeper and look at how the deposition of different matrix proteins are affected by changing the LaNt expression levels. From my initial data analysis, cell morphology, attachment and migration of the new stable lines are altered, as well as morphology of the cocultures and deposition epidermal-dermal basement membrane proteins. Analysis is still ongoing, but it is already clear that this little-studied protein is potent! We will know about this soon, watch this space.
This experience wasn’t just about the data. It was really about my personal development. It allowed me to learn these new useful coculture techniques, and experience working within different lab environment, to meet new colleagues and establish new collaboration. I also attended interesting seminars and talks such the Dermatology Seminar Series and the ESDR kitchen, which were extremely insightful.
The experience of living in Germany was very enjoyable (despite lockdown measure being introduced after the first few weeks). I’ll especially appreciated German bakeries and Doner kebabs! Before the lockdown, I got to visit some friends in Berlin and taste a dürüm from Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap, which bordered on life changing!
I also cannot say thanks enough to everyone in the Nyström Lab for being so welcoming and helpful, and especially Dr. Pauline Nauroy for taking the time to help me get set up and teaching me the techniques Lee and Liam from the Hamill Lab also pulled off a great operation of getting reagents over to me, as I’d had to self isolate up until the day before my flight to Germany due to catching the coronavirus. Finally, I’m very grateful to my department (ILCAMS / EVS) for authorising the trip, and particularly DAAD for funding my stipend whilst I was over there and supporting the research visit. I would recommend that any researcher checks out the grants offered by the DAAD, and try and spend some time experiencing research and life in Germany!