Greetings from Slovenia! :)
We are Nika and Barbara, biology and microbiology students from Slovenia. It has been a month since we joined the IVY volunteer program and started participating in the Interreg project TRANS-GLIOMA in the program Italy-Slovenia, which aim is to increase the cooperation in the field of brain cancer research among hospitals, universities, research institutions and companies in different countries.
We have joined Interreg Volunteer Youth because we wanted to be involved in research in the field of brain cancer (glioblastoma) – currently incurable disease.
We started by getting to know our mentors and co-workers, who welcomed us and introduced us to the research team at National Institute of Biology in Ljubljana. Soon we became a part of the team ourselves.
In the first week, we got the overview of the basic research work on the brain cancer biology. As we became familiar with lab work and biomedical techniques in the field of glioblastoma, we were each given our assignments.
Nika: My main objective is to study interactions between glioblastoma stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells, which are located within the glioblastoma tumour microenvironment. Interactions between those two types of cells can lead to cancer progression and therapy resistance. It is crucial to study new possible therapeutic strategies in cell and animal models. I prepare 3D multicellular spheroids to study the invasiveness of those cells.
Moreover, I take images of glioblastoma stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells in zebrafish embryos, which are novel animal models to study cancer progression, using fluorescence microscope.
Barbara: The goal of the experiments I work on is to find new ways of treating this so far incurable tumour. My assignment is growing of glioblastoma cell lines, isolated from tumour biopsies, which are received after surgical removal of the tumour from patients at the clinic. I try to grow the differentiated glioblastoma cells as well as glioblastoma stem cells and get the desired number of cells. When they are numerous enough I expose them to specific natural substances and test their affect on cell apoptosis, proliferation, senescence and viability. I am also checking the expression of natural substances specific receptors in different cell lines and observing how it correlates with the treatment experiments.
This is what glioblastoma stem cells, growing in clusters, look like.
And these are the differenciated glioblastoma cells.
We are both learning a lot about laboratory work and about being a part of a working team. Besides lab work we also attend seminars where we learn new things and will be later able to transfer the knowledge of brain tumour biology to others and so bring this field of oncology closer to the general public.
We are very grateful for getting the opportunity to work in such an interesting research field and to be able to contribute in finding more about this incurable disease and possibly someday turning it into a curable one.
Thank you for the opportunity!