Hello, my name is Helena and I am a PhD student within the Vascular Signalling Laboratory led by Mariona Graupera in the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) in Barcelona. It has been 4 years since I started my project in the lab, and before finishing my thesis research, we thought it was a good moment to explore another vascular signalling laboratory and learn from their knowledge and techniques. I just returned from a stage in Dr. Holger Gerhardt’s laboratory in London, funded by the Development Travelling Fellowship from the Company of Biologists.
During my visit at Dr. Gerhardt’s lab I have learned one of the most useful and interesting techniques in the vascular biology field: the generation of embryoid bodies. The embryoid bodies are three-dimensional aggregates of pluripotent stem cells that after stimulation with the vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A) can be differentiated into endothelial cells and generate vascular sprouts that will grow in between two collagen layers (figure 1).
Dr. Gerhardt’s team has helped me to create embryoid bodies generated from stem cells deficient of my protein of interest. This technique has offered me an excellent ex vivo approach to study in greater detail the role of my protein of interest in sprouting angiogenesis. The experiments that I have carried out during my stage in London will very nicely complement the in vivo work that I have been doing for the last years with the study of the retinal mouse vasculature. Besides the exciting experiments that I have done in London, I have also had the opportunity to meet and interact with different professionals involved in the vascular signalling field that have shared with me their knowledge.
Apart from the academic experience, my personal experience in London has also been fantastic. London has been a great city to spend these 3 months. It is a huge city with so many places, parks, markets and experiences to discover. Of course, compared to Barcelona, the weather was not the best thing to remember but I was lucky that I could enjoy quite a few sunny days!
This experience has been a very nice way to finish my PhD period and I sincerely thank to the Company of Biologists their support.