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On Erasmus at the School of Pharmacy

Erasmus student José Muñoz-Martín from the University of Málaga (Spain) shares his experience of spending a semester here in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

This is José Muñoz-Martín, Erasmus student from the University of Málaga (Spain). From June to October 2021, I had the amazing opportunity to work in Dr. Maria Santos-Martinez laboratory in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences thanks to an Erasmus traineeship program (ERASMUS+ KA103). One of Maria’s research interests is about getting a better understanding of cancer biology, a devastating group of diseases that cause 10 million of deaths a year, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Specifically, my research project was focused on the interaction of blood platelets with cancer cells during the development of blood metastasis and progression of tumour invasion.

It is known that metastasis is the principal cause of death in cancer patients and it has been proved that platelets play a role helping tumour cells to travel across the body. In general, there is a bidirectional communication between platelets and cancer cells, and this latter seems to stimulate platelets to aggregate in a phenomenon called tumor cell-induced platelet aggregation (TCIPA). TCIPA can be triggered through direct interaction via adhesion molecules or via the secretion of different factors by tumour cells, being metastasis the last consequence of this process. The investigation of the molecular mechanisms that coordinate these biological processes is therefore crucial to develop new targets and therapies against these diseases.

For me, this internship has been a fantastic learning experience in experimental design and techniques involving the study of platelet function and tumour cell induced platelet interactions (TCIPA). I was able to work on isolation of platelets from whole blood and study its function using light transmittance aggregometry and Quartz-Crystal microbalance with Dissipation. Furthermore, additional skills within in vitro cell and tissue culture, biochemistry and molecular biology techniques, microscopy and preparation of reagents to carry out the laboratory procedures were also part of my research work. As a young researcher, still in formation, it truly fascinates me how the work in the lab, using the techniques I learned, can have such an important bench-to-bed transition for the benefit of many people. I am more than happy to have lived this rewarding experience, having met great people during my stay and got to know a welcoming city as it is Dublin. I recommend other students to do the same, it will make you feel you are part of something big.