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Two international grants to study nanoparticles in “smart” neural models

PhD student Ana Spencer recently won two grants – a COST Short-Term Scientific Mission Grant and an EMBO Scientific Exchange Grant – which will allow her to do a two-month internship in two laboratories at Tel Aviv University, in Israel.

Attending the final year of the doctoral program in Biomedical Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto (FEUP), Ana Spencer, under the guidance of Victoria Leiro and Ana Paula Pêgo (leader of the “nanoBiomaterials for Targeted Therapies” group), is developing nanoparticles for the delivery of nucleic acids for the treatment of neurological diseases that affect the peripheral and/or central nervous system.

During these two months, the doctoral student will continue to work on the development of “a new microfluidic platform that mimics the interaction of the peripheral (PNS) and central (CNS) nervous system. This model can be useful not only to characterize the bioperformance of nanoparticles, but also to study the interface between the PNS and CNS. Furthermore, it can contribute to reducing the number of animals used in research”.

In researcher Ben M. Maoz's group, explains Ana Spencer, “I will improve our platforms through the integration of microelectrodes, which will allow us to study the effect of nanoparticles on neuronal activity”. This group is an expert in the development of “smart” devices and alternative animal models, namely based on microfluidics and organ-on-chip.

At the same time, the student will also work in researcher Eran Perlson’s group where she will learn how to culture motor neurons and study the migration of nanoparticles that the team she is part of has developed. This group, adds Ana Spencer, “has developed a lot of work in the area of neurodegenerative diseases and is specialized in studying the migration of cell components along neurons”.

Having won two grants from such prestigious institutions as EMBO and COST, means for Ana Spencer “a great recognition of the work developed in recent years” and, she emphasizes, “a great achievement in my, still short, career in research”. The two-month internship in Israel, for her part, will be “an incredible opportunity to learn and develop my experimental skills in the area of microfluidics and intelligent models”.

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