ESB Education and Student Committee

ESB Mobility Award winner Joanne Melke

Awardee:Joanne Melke
Home Institution: Eindhoven University of Technology
Supervisor: Prof. Sandra Hofmann
Foreign Institution: National University of Ireland Galway
Scientist responsible at the foreign lab: Prof. Laoise McNamara

Research experience

The ESB Mobility Award allowed me to visit the Mechanobiology and Medical Device Research Group of Prof. Dr. Laoise McNamara at the National University of Ireland in Galway (NUIG). My project in this group focuses on vascularization within bone tissue engineered constructs, specifically how mechanical stimulation of bone and angiogenesis are coupled. During my stay I am working with a novel perfusion/compression bioreactor in combination with non-invasive 3D live-cell imaging to monitor the development of vascular networks and bone tissue under mechanical loading.

Fig. Perfusion/compression bioreactor allowing for non-invasive 3D live-cell imaging.

My PhD focused on mesenchymal stromal cells differentiation for bone tissue engineering in mono-cultures and spinner flask bioreactors. With my research at NUIG, I gain not only extensive knowledge of 3D co-cultures of mesenchymal stromal cells and endothelial cells but also access to more advanced bioreactors. I am also actively involved in bioreactor design and modification to optimize the live-cell imaging of the developing constructs and facilitate assembly and handling. I have built an extended network at the NUIG which has been a source of useful feedback for my own research, exciting new research ideas, and insights into novel methodological approaches.

ESB Mobility Award winner Laura Baumgartner

Awardee: Laura Baumgartner
Home Institution: Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Supervisor: Dr. Jérôme Bernard Noailly and Prof. Miguel Ángel González Ballester
Foreign Institution: ETH Zurich
Scientist responsible at the foreign lab: Prof. Karin Würtz

Research experience

The ESB mobility Award 2018 is giving me the great opportunity to enrich my PhD with interdisciplinary experiences. With my investigation during my PhD, I am aiming at contributing to the understanding of why our intervertebral discs (IVD) rupture. The process of IVD rupturing is assumed to be related to microtrauma accumulation within the tissue over a large time period, thus, apart of mechanical factors as well biological factors play an important role, as cellular predisposition might be crucial for the tissue-strength. A lot of research has been done over the last decades within this research field; however, it was not possible so far to get an insight in the multifactorial environment to which our IVD cells are continuously exposed. This is likely related to spatiotemporal limitations in experimental research and limitations in current modelling techniques applied in IVD research. As a novelty, I am introducing Agent-based modelling in IVD research, presenting a methodology to merge experimental data obtained on a cellular level to estimate cellular behavior in a complex multifactorial environment (stimuli from direct and indirect mechanotransduction are considered). Therefore, I need a lot of very specific data from cellular experiments, which can only partly be found in literature.

Thus, to be able to obtain such data on my own, I applied to the ESB to go to ETH Zürich to obtain those data in the cell culture lab of Prof, Karin Würtz-Kozak. My work during my internship consists in extracting Nucleus Pulposus cells from IVDs of bovine tails, culturing those cells and transferring them into alginate beads. Alginate beads get exposed to different glucose concentrations or to the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF-α. Finally, cellular mRNA expression will be measured for each condition and hopefully, missing relationships between stimuli and mRNA expression will be obtained.

Fig. Bovine tail, ready to be dissected (left) and 2D and 3D cell cultures (right).

I am very grateful to get this possibility. It is a great experience to learn so many new things and very useful and important to better understand the methodology of experimental papers I am always dealing with.