First person experience in a Short Term Scientific Mission (STSM)

First person experience in a Short Term Scientific Mission (STSM)

Barbara Voraberger is a Ph.D. student in the research group of Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Högler at the Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria. The laboratory focus is on understanding the mechanism of action of rare bone diseases. For her Ph.D thesis, Barbara is particularly interested on novel gene mutations in children with osteogenesis imperfecta and on understanding the underlying mechanism of disease.

Barbara Voraberger shared with us a brief report of her experience in a STSM

“On 1 March 2021 I started a 2-month research stay at the well-known Erasmus medical center (EMC) in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. I was working in the laboratory for Calcium and Bone Metabolism which is led by Dr. Bram van der Eerden. This short-term scientific mission (STSM) was funded by Gemstone.

Despite several entry restrictions and also regulations in the laboratory due to the COVID19 pandemic, it was possible to carry out the planned experiments. The aim of this residency was to learn the differentiation of human mesenchymal stromal cells (hMSC) into osteoblasts in order to establish this in our laboratory as this is generally an important technique in bone research and particularly for my Ph.D. project of great relevance. Besides that, I was also able to learn the differentiation of hMSCs into adipocytes and the various biochemical assays and histological stainings used for the characterization of osteogenesis and adipogenesis. For the phenotyping of osteogenesis, I measured alkaline phosphatase activity and calcium content and I performed Alizarin Red S and Von Kossa staining for visualizing mineralized extracellular matrix. Adipogenesis was characterized by Nile red and Oil-red O staining and a subsequent semi-quantification of the lipid vesicles. Apart from the differentiation of hMSCs I also differentiated hMSC-TERT cells which are ectopically expressing hTERT into both lineages. Additionally, I generated time courses for gene expression profiling of genes of interest for both lineages.

The prevailing COVID19 measures didn’t make it easy to get in contact with some other scientists. However, weekly lab and institute meetings made it possible to meet at least in a virtual manner and to exchange ideas.

Besides the exciting lab work and interesting discussions, I had, there was quite some time left to discover the amazing and multi-facetted city Rotterdam. I enjoyed every single bike ride through this fascinating city of modern architecture mixed with historical buildings and a lot of excellent pieces of street art. But also watching one of those massive bridges moving was just impressive.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t really experience the dutch kitchen due to the closed restaurants but I was able to do some trips to the surrounding areas like the famous cheese cities Edam and Gouda, the little town Spijkenisse with all the Euro note bridges and to the most beautiful, colorful and amazingly smelling flower fields I have seen so far. All in all, I am really happy that my STSM was possible, especially in these times and that I got supported by the Gemstone grant. Currently I’m establishing the differentiation procedure at home and I really appreciate having gained profound knowledge and skills in such an experienced lab on hMSCs. I am thankful to Dr. Bram van der Eerden for all the interesting scientific discussions, the great support and all the established contacts. I’m looking forward to a continuous collaboration with him and his team on some projects in the future.”


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