Where Ideas Grow

PhD student wins two research grants to study lower back pain

With the aim of better understanding the pathology of low back pain, one of the main causes of physical disability in the world, PhD student Ana Luísa Castro is developing new models for in vitro of intervertebral disc degeneration at the Institute of Research and Innovation in Health at the University of Porto (i3S). This project was recently awarded two research grants: a Cornerstone Grant, awarded by The Histochemical Society, and an Education Grant, awarded by the ON Foundation.

The Cornerstone Grant is intended to financially support students and scientists at the beginning of their careers, in projects involving immunohistochemistry, histochemistry, or in situ hybridization techniques, precisely the technology that Ana Luísa Castro will use as part of her PhD project in Biotechnology Molecular and Cellular Applied to Health Sciences, from the Instituto Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar (ICBAS) and the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Porto (FFUP). The objective, explains the student, is “to deepen knowledge about the impact of inflammation associated with degeneration and herniation of the intervertebral disc, namely in the identification of cell populations relevant to this process in the disc”.

This project is guided by ICBAS professor and i3S researcher Raquel Gonçalves, with whom the student is developing her research work, and is co-supervised by scientists Mário Barbosa, from ICBAS and i3S, and Laura De Laporte, from DWI - Leibniz-Institut fur Interaktive Materialien in Aachen, Germany - where Ana Luísa Castro carried out part of her doctorate between 2020 and 2021.

The Education Grant, in turn, will allow the student to participate in the conference “EORS 2023 - 31st Annual Meeting of the European Orthopedic Research Society”, which will take place from the 27th to the 29th of September, in Porto, and which brings together the scientific community in the field of Orthopedics. Currently attending the last year of her PhD, this opportunity is “crucial” for Ana Luísa Castro, as she will have the opportunity to “deepen her knowledge in the area”, but also to “share the work” she has been developing at i3S with colleagues and renowned mentors in the field of orthoregeneration.