ESR 15 – Secondment in Tubingen

During October and November 2021 I have been visiting NMI in Tübingen for a period of five weeks. The aim of the secondment was to learn about fabrication of microfluidic chips, and transfer a concept for a hydrogen peroxide sensor to microfluidics. I have felt very welcome at NMI by not only the two ESRs employed at NMI, but the entire working group and staff. In my spare time I have been sightseeing in both Tübingen and Stuttgart, hiking during sunny days (and one rainy), and went bouldering. All together with some of the cool people from the working group.

ESR 1 – Secondment in Lausanne

I am ESR1, Alessia Moruzzi, and I am working in the Micro-Organo Lab at NMI. My project focuses on the development of a Heart-on-chip platform. As one of the major milestones of the project is to integrate relevant hydrogels mimicking the human heartECM, I had the opportunity to gain more insight on the topic by joining the laboratory of Matthias Lütolf at EPFL in Switzerland from 7 June to 25 June. Here, I worked closely with Bilge Şen Elçi (ESR9) to screen for possible hydrogels to be loaded in the chip, which could ensure cardiac tissue viability and functionality. I also learned how to perform basic rheology measurements to characterize, viscosity, gelation time and stiffens of hydrogels. Coming from a purely biological background, I found extremely interesting learning more about the material properties of hydrogels and their characterization. During my stay, it was nice to see the contrast between Lausanne lively city centre, and the quiet periphery surrounding the University campus, with green fields and a panoramic view of the mountains. I also really liked the international atmosphere of EPFL. All the lab members were friendly and it was nice to join them in some after-work-get-togethers by the Geneva Lake or on campus. I look forward to visiting again and tasting more Fondue!

ESR10 – Secondment in Bern

My name is Merve Bulut (ESR10) and I am working at Leiden University Medical Center. My PhD project focuses on developing and validating a functional 3D vessel-on-chip platform that is highly representative of capillary and venule networks. Which be next used to model inflammatory responses of healthy and diseased human microvasculature in vitro using human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)-derived vascular cells. As a part of EUROoC-ITN, a secondment was planned in November 2020 at University of Bern in Prof. Dr. Olivier Guenat’s group for a training in 3D microvascular-on-chip model established in their group. Due to COVID19 restrictions in Europe, the training had to be carried out remotely. The PDMS-based microfluidic chips were kindly provided by Guenat’s group and shipped to us. The training for the microfluidic chip fabrication and 3D cell culture was successfully completed via video calls. During this period, the 3D cell culture protocol was slightly modified and optimized for hiPSC- derived vascular cells. Finally, we successfully established a perfusable 3D microvasculature network using hiPSC-derived endothelial cells together with hiPSC-derived vascular smooth muscle cells embedded in a fibrin gel. Using fluorescently tagged hiPSC lines, we could track cell-cell interaction and network development over time. The interconnected microvasculature network was stable at least for 10 days. At the end of this period, we concluded that the microvasculature model is very valuable to be integrated into our projects and be used for disease modelling. I am very grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with Guenat`s group. I would like to send special thanks to Dr. Sohelia Zeinali for the remote training and helpful discussions. Despite not being able to visit the lab in Bern and meet the group members in person, it was a very fruitful experience. We are looking forward to continuing our collaboration in this project!

ESR 13 – Secondment in Jena

The engineer at Jena University Hospital

My name is Tanvi Shroff and I am ESR 13, working at Fraunhofer IGB in Stuttgart in the Micro-Organo Lab. My research focuses on leveraging organ-on-chip technology to study the crosstalk between human white adipose and hepatic tissue. Through the MSCA-ITN, we have the opportunity to visit collaborating labs to learn different expertise that could further our knowledge and allow for better chip design. A planned secondment was carried out from 27 September to 30 October 2020, where I had the opportunity to experience life and research in the beautiful small city of Jena, in Eastern Germany. At the Jena University Hospital, I worked with the INSPIRE Group, headed by Dr. Alexander Mosig to test a prototype of a chip that would provide hepatocytes with a physiologically relevant gradient for metabolic zonation. I worked closely with Kehinde Aina (ESR 11) and learnt the nuances of hepatocyte culture and characterization on the organ-chip. As a chemical engineer by training, thus far, I have always worked in labs with an engineering focus and through the secondment, I had the opportunity to work in a molecular biology lab, which differed not only in the core expertise but also in lab organization.

With a population of fewer than 200,000 people, the quiet simple life in Jena was a contrast to what I am used to in Stuttgart. My commute to work took me across the river Saale and in the evenings I got to explore the historically and scientifically inclined city (to the extent that the pandemic would allow). The members of the lab were extremely supportive, friendly, and always up for scientific discussion. There was never a dull moment in the lab and I was provided with everything I needed to maximize my learning. I look forward to visiting again!

ESR 5 – Secondment in Twente

Hi, my name is Mathilda Kaminska (ESR 5) and I am currently conducting a PhD at the INSPIRE laboratory at Jena University Hospital. My aim is to develop a more physiologically relevant in vitro model for studying the gut and gut-microbiome interactions. To accomplish this, we would like to establish and conduct TEER measurements across the modelled intestinal barrier as an additional outcome measure for barrier integrity. Thus, a planned secondment was carried out in collaboration with the Applied Stem cell Technologies group and BIOS lab-on-chip group at The University of Twente from February 14 to March 18, 2020. Firstly, incorporation of electrodes into the microfluidic system was refined and thereafter TEER measurements were successfully carried out. Future measures to incorporate this particular technique in our laboratory group has begun.

A special thanks and appreciation of efficient collaboration is given to everybody who was involved in the success of this secondment, more specifically in the AST group and the BIOS group at Twente University.
During my stay in Twente the surrounding nature and friendly attitude of the people improved it. Furthermore, the peanut butter sauce is definitely worth a try.

Overall, it was a very positive experience to work at UTwente, collaborate with different people, revisit The Netherlands and I have gained more ideas on how to further work on my PhD project.