Iryna Khrystoforova has just finished her PhD at Bar-Ilan University, Azrieli Faculty of Medicine under supervision of Prof. Karasik, Genetics of musculoskeletal diseases lab. Currently she is a Postdoc at Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, University of Copenhagen. Here we can find her STSM experience in GEMSTONE:
My STSM journey at the Department of Osteology and Biomechanics in Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) has started back in 2019 before the global COVID-19 outbreak. By that time, I was entering my second year of the Ph.D. program at the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine at Bar-Ilan University. Under the supervision of Prof. David Karasik, I was working on a “gene-to-function” project using the zebrafish model. My focus of the research remains the functional validation of novel genes from Genome-Wide Association studies for musculoskeletal tissue loss, such as loss of bone mineral density. The laboratory of Prof. Karasik in Israel investigates the Genetics of musculoskeletal diseases and fosters collaborations across the globe with leading scientific groups in the bone and muscle field within the GEMSTONE consortium. Thus, I have become a member of the GEMSTONE and, with my supervisor’s support, decided to apply for the Short-Scientific Mission call.
A bit earlier I had a chance to meet Prof. Busse and Imke Fiedler from UKE at the conference and got an idea about their research group interest. From that moment I started to follow the publications of Prof. Busse’s group, and it was my “scientific dream” to get a chance to visit their laboratory. The Research Group of Prof. Björn Busse is known for its experience and expertise in the investigation of the cellular components, tissue composition, and mechanical properties of bone specimens in different models, including zebrafish. Once, we decided to apply for the STSM I didn´t have doubts about which group to approach as the host. We drafted the email with Prof. Karasik and sent it to Prof. Busse. The response didn´t make us wait long. Prof. Busse was very welcome and agreed to participate as the hosting lab for my STSM. We arranged the plan together and I was put in contact with the senior Postdoc in the group Imke Fiedler.
Since then, we have been exchanging different ideas for the research project and discussing further plans with Dr. Fiedler. I cannot express how excited I was when the STSM proposal got approved by the committee. I immediately started preparing for the trip, however, the global pandemic appeared and the STSM visit got delayed. The strict COVID-19 regulations both in Israel and Germany become a big obstacle for traveling and fulfilling the laid-out research plan. Despite the arising difficulties we managed to adjust the STSM plan and the zebrafish samples for further analysis had been sent from Israel before I started to travel. We conducted multiple meetings online and full-field some of the STSM goals online. I learned how to prepare bone samples for further histology and back-scattering imaging online from Dr. Fielder. This was explicitly possible only with the help of the group members. Thus, we prepared the samples for further experiments, which have been stored, and waiting for my arrival to continue.
Finally, in October 2022, I reached Hamburg and continued the project successfully. I learned how to visualize the calcium distribution through the zebrafish skeleton via a quantitative back- scattering technique using scanning electron microscopy. By allowing me to join the histology unit at the Medical Center I had a chance to learn from the experts how to achieve high-quality ultrathin sections of bone samples and proceed further with bone-specific staining in order to evaluate the cellular content. I had an opportunity to interact with all group members and discuss the results of the conducted experiments. We had the most interesting and intensive debate over the TRAP staining results in zebrafish bones which ultimately expanded my knowledge about osteoclasts in zebrafish. And I must underline that it was my favorite part about this STSM – gaining new knowledge through the exchange of different experiences where biological and mechanical research collide.
This STSM was aimed at both educational and explorative purposes that were carried out over two weeks. We achieved promising preliminary results that are piloting future collaborative investigations and I can´t wait to proceed with further data analysis. Despite the tight experimental schedule, I had a chance to observe the beauty of the wonderful city of Hamburg. Group members organized the boat tour in the Harbor waterway, and it was an unforgettable experience to see the illuminated night city from a unique perspective with great company. We had a lot of fun, and I got a chance to try the famous “Fischbrötchen” – the traditional sandwich of Northern Germany with pickled herring and onion. Being originally from the port city of Odesa I could fully appreciate and enjoy the local cuisine and the vibe of the marine port city of Hamburg.
Most importantly I want to express my gratitude to the STSM committee for such an amazing opportunity and for all help on the way to making this STSM possible. This STSM helped me to acquire new skills and led me to gain valuable experiences. I am deeply grateful to Prof. Busse for accepting my STSM initiative, and to Dr.Fiedler and the group members for their warm hospitality, interesting discussions, and for all conversations we had. I am looking forward to continuing our collaboration.”