In German when you speak of someone who is in need of a change of scenery, who wants to set out for something new, you refer to them as aching for “a wallpaper change”, as wanting a new coat of paint on their old life. Recently I must have ordered paint by the bucket, because starting this August more than just my wallpaper has been changing. Let me, Thomas, paint the picture for you:
Starting with me being granted the opportunity to pursue my PhD as part of the PersonalizeAF ITN under a Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant and progressing from my Master’s studies to an industry position at the laboratories of the stem cells experts Ncardia;
Followed by me moving away from my familiar Tübingen in Germany to the new shores of Leiden in Netherlands, driving my belongings up the Rhine to set up in a new city, new home and new apartment;
And concluded by starting out in a different field of research, looking into human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs for those in the know), how they can be differentiated into atrial cardiomyocytes (aCM for the ones from before) and finally be used to model and hopefully combat atrial fibrillation (AF for.. you get it);
Coincidentally this might actually not be the only way hiPSCs are related to this project, but more on that later…
With all these new beginnings, the first few weeks in Leiden at Ncardia have been thoroughly exciting. Besides setting up at my new place and avoiding to absentmindedly fall into one of the many canals spanning across the dutch cityscape, my preparations for jumping into the hiPSC based AF model have been steadily moving along. After meeting my welcoming supervisor Elena Matsa, days have so far been filled with reading research papers, going through protocols and all in all being eager to start doing the first experiments in the lab. The initial step there is already on the horizon, with me getting my very own hiPSCs at the end of this week.
You must be wondering by now how hiPSC relate to this in more than just one way. For the aforementioned “in the know” hiPSC are of interest in research because they are the reverted version of differentiated cells, returned to their stem cell predecessor state. From being mature cells stuck in their position, they regained pluripotency, meaning the ability to once again become anything a cell can be. Figuratively speaking becoming a blank slate, Metaphorically a white wallpaper –
Just as with every new beginning that is full of possibilities, time will tell what these hiPSC will differentiate into, as will my project, both hopefully finding their way to atrial fibrillation.
If you find the time check out the official Twitter and LinkedIn of the project and PersonalizeAF, as well as the hashtag #PersonalizeAF, to learn more about atrial fibrillation and how research is done towards curing it.
Anyways I’ve got to get back to painting wallpaper, see you in the next post!
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