I’m Grace and I am one of the two NF2 BioSolutions UK PhD students at the University of Manchester.
I am currently looking at the body’s immune cells that can invade into NF2 brain tumours which may provide new ideas that could lead to the development of targeted drugs for those with NF2. This is the goal of my 3-year PhD, but I thought I would break that down into my day-to-day routine in this ‘Day in the Life’ blog post.
At the moment, I spend about 70% of my time in the lab running experiments and 30% at my desk planning and analysing my results. This is how my day usually pans out:
When I get to the office, I usually hang out my dripping raincoat (Manchester can be a bit soggy!) and sit at my desk to plan my day and answer emails….
Then I often need to check on and feed my cells… yes cells! These are human immune cells we separated out of donor blood donated to research. So I nip into the lab and check my flask of cells under the microscope to see if they are growing happily and healthily…
If, like today, my cells seem healthy then I can run an experiment with them. In this case I just ‘lysed’ them (essentially, I mashed them up) and separated out a part of the cells that I am interested in.
I am looking to see which genes are more active in the cells after I put them in different treatments to see if they change… I am hoping to mimic the same environment that they would face inside an NF2 tumour and see their reaction. I take a tiny amount of the genes purified from the cells (the droplet is smaller than the tip of a ball point pen!)…
I carefully add the droplet containing the genes into a tiny well in a plastic plate… then I repeat this 384 times to look at many different genes in the cells after different treatments. It sure makes your eyes tired in the process!
After I have filled a plate, I put it in the PCR machine… just the same as when you have a COVID PCR test to look for certain genes to see if coronavirus is present, I am looking for genes in my cells.
The PCR machine runs for 2 hours, and when it is done I can see what genes may have been more or less active in my cells. This is useful because I want to know how the cells grown in the lab are influenced in my experiments and if they properly mimic the immune cells found in NF2 brain tumours.
I hope that we can use these cells to understand the inflammation in NF tumours and to test out potential drugs to understand their effect in the lab before trialling them in animals or people with NF2.
This blog has been created as a way to share stories, ideas, positivity and even sprinkle in some science. Everyone is welcome here and warmly encouraged to join us in contributing to our community through this blog. If you would like to add anything (anything at all!) then please contact myself, Grace Gregory, at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can pop it up on our blog. Watch this space and please join in helping us all connect and share with one another!