The host of the 2nd training session, Dr. Thomas Biedermann, inspired us for a 5 days virtual expedition through the vast landscape of skin tissue engineering, hair regeneration biology along with the nuances of scientific writing, poster designing and overview of intellectual property rights (IPR).
Day 1. Intellectual property rights (Dr. Robert Dekker & Dr. Liesbet Paemen)
This session gave us 101 to the world of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR); Why a PhD candidate needs to understand this at the start of their program. Since we work on creating new knowledge and contributing to the field by investing our time on specific objectives, our research can result in a candidate for patenting. But personally, anybody who is working in creating knowledge, designs or troubleshoots for existing processes to be efficient, deals with intelectual property, thus understanding of IPR is universal. Since IPR gives the creator the right of exclusive use to be secured for an invention and design, one can protect his/her own creation and use it for patent royalty. The relatable real-life examples of hurdles and do’s & don’ts of patenting made us introspect for our PhD research.
The next session gave an insider and PhD perspective on the ever evolving patent landscape. To understand the delicate balance of lifesaving medical treatment and patent protection in the EU. This may seem like a hurdle and risk of investing for companies and students working in the area of translational work to patients in clinics. However, if it comes to life or IP protection, life of the individual gets precedence and it should not be any other way. The session left us with knowledge on how to tackle the hurdle in patenting regenerative biology products, which is a balancing act.
Day 2. Writing a scientific paper (Dr. Markus Thiersch)
How to publish your research? What is the best way of writing a scientific paper? Which mistakes to avoid? This training course provided us with the answers during the lecture and especially with the analysis of 4 recent but differently written papers. It was a huge contrast between how-to-do and how-NOT-to-do, hints and tricks versus pitfalls on how to increase the impact of our work. Though it may seem strange, we can still find a badly written paper in the journal with impact factor ~5 in 2021. There we observed lots of grammar and spelling mistakes (even in the title!), inconsistent use of past and present tenses, long and complicated sentences, ambiguous phrases and chaotically aligned figures with missing elements.
The take home message: simplicity is the hallmark of genius. Keep your writing in a comprehensive, grammatically correct, short and precise way.
Day 3. Hair regeneration biology (Prof. Colin Jahoda & Dr. Claire Higgins)
The sheer amount of work done on hair follicle biology to be crunched in a day is a monumental task. This interactive session from the pioneer of papilla cell biology and hair follicle gave us a bird’s eye view; how the field shaped from his PhD days to the present. We were taken aback by the elegant ways devised to perform experiments on skin when tools were scarce. Those tools are still relevant to us and we all were given the thought process of it on a silver platter. Interesting fact to add is how Alan Turing, a famous mathematician and computer scientist, worked on patterning which helped solving the hair biology questions back in the day and is still in use and more relevant today. Furthermore, our questions asked before the session were discussed in the lecture and the integration gave rise to topics which went beyond the scope of lecture and it was dynamic. Since it was an online workshop, Ms. Yaqi, a PhD student from the Jahoda lab, supplemented us with short videos of techniques performed and pioneered in their lab. This workshop gave an overview of the timeline and experiments done in hair follicle biology to reach the present understanding.
The next session introduced us to the idea of growing rodents’ hair follicles in plastic wares and the method of spheroid culturing of dermal papilla cells that control hair growth. By the way, do you know we have papilla cells in the tongue which helps in taste perception as well? The session showed us studying hair follicle biology in academia can be translated in a clinical setting. We also discussed the role of bio printing and technology in pushing the frontier of hair follicle and skin biology. These techniques are relevant to us in many ways and will guide us in our present work.
Day 4. Scientific poster design (Dr. Markus Thiersch)
Professional scientific visualisations methods are crucial in the research because they can help to represent the ideas graphically in a simple and clear way, convey a message quickly, attract attention and rapidly share the knowledge. This training course contained an overview on how to design a scientific poster and graphic design principles to avoid technical pitfalls concerning file formats, alignment of blocks, colour spaces, layouts and image resolution. We practiced by quickly preparing a poster in group assignments and presenting it in a poster pitch manner. And we managed to prepare for that in a very limited time, just 1 hour.
Day 5. Skin tissue engineering (PD Dr. med. Sophie Böttcher-Haberzeth, Dr. Agnes Klar, Dr. Luca Pontiggia & Dr. Thomas Biedermann)
Self-study assignments for this workshop provided us with the answers to questions like what are the general types of skin substitutes, what are the sources of human mesenchymal stem cells and what are Langerhans and Merkel cells. It was valuable and at the same time difficult to observe current clinical problems and solutions for burn and scald injuries, congenital melanocytic nevi, infections, meningococcal sepsis and other skin diseases in particular examples of suffering patients. But then we continued with the demand for skin tissue engineering, various types of engineered skin, their applications, their advantages and disadvantages. It was interesting to see how blood and lymphatic pre-vascularisation should prevent formation of seroma, support graft intake and accelerate wound healing. Moreover, we familiarized with the research from the speakers on melanocytes, their characterisation and effects on skin pigmentation.
That is the brief description of the Second Training Session of the SkinTERM project. Thank you for following us during this fascinating journey in exploring the sophisticated and endless world of scarless skin regeneration. Stay tuned and find out what we will have learnt by the next training session organised by Universidade do Algarve (Portugal)!