This month we have been working with a group of students from the University’s computing department who will be visiting SCRABEL weekly to work on their project. So far we’ve already seen Raspberry Pis pushed to new limits, soldering irons aplenty, and Saif has been creating a 3D printed 3D printer as well as a home made portable oscilloscope which is able to power other USB devices when in use – we’re very much looking forward to seeing the project (and visiting students) develop over the coming weeks.

Neha has also returned to the lab (perhaps somewhat reluctantly being dropped back into British weather and Storm Doris!) following a 6 week lab placement to KSHEMA. Having come back and made everyone (most notably me) suitably jealous of Indian McDonald’s by touting McDelivery and the Maharaja Mac, I was intrigued to learn more about Neha’s placement and the experiences gained as a PhD student – and I hope you are too!

Neha’s PhD centres on the skin condition vitiligo in which skin stops producing the pigment melanin resulting in chalky white patches. Implantation of cultured skin cells (melanocytes and keratinocytes in particular) has been tried as a treatment for vitiligo, and current research has suggested that manipulating the ratio of different cell types may enhance the effectiveness of cultured grafts. As such, while in India Neha embarked on a short-term study to isolate and establish cultures of these cells in vitro while optimising conditions to support growth of the desired cells. During this short term project the specialised skin cells were able to be successfully cultured and maintained in vitro; in the coming weeks Neha will be using the protocols developed in India to establish cell cultures in the SCRABEL – see below for microscopy images of the cultured cells!

Isolation and establishment of melanocytes and keratinocytes from skin sample. Day 0. Isolation of single cells from epidermal tissue after initial seeding.

Isolation and establishment of melanocytes and keratinocytes from skin sample. Day 2. Initial attachment and growing primary culture of skin cells.

Finally, Dr Xiaomei Lu has been off representing the lab internationally by presenting a poster at the Bio-Techne Symposium 2017 on Epigenetic Regulation of Stem Cell Differentiation at Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam.