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Friday, June 27, 2014, Issue 79

Student travels to Stockholm to learn from leading researchers in Europe

Scoring of Gamma-H2AX Foci

Scoring of Gamma-H2AX Foci

During the first semester of my PGD Radiotherapy & Oncology course at Sheffield Hallam University, I had a lecture on radiobiology and how it relates to radiotherapy. I enjoyed the lecture immensely and found the topic interesting.

In my quest to develop a better understanding of the radiobiology of radiation, I started looking for additional short courses. While browsing online, I came across a short course offered by Stockholm University (SU), Sweden. The course was called ‘CELOD – Cellular Effects of Low-doses and Low dose-rates with focus on DNA damage and Stress Response’.

The course was funded by ‘DOREMI’ and was open to any researcher or post-graduate student working or studying in the European Union. There were no course fees and accommodation was also provided.

The course lasted for two weeks and was quite intensive. Expert lecturers and researchers from the UK, Sweden, Germany and Belgium delivered lectures during the morning sessions, while afternoon sessions were dedicated to the laboratory side of things.

During the lab sessions we worked with ‘TK6’ and ‘VH10’ cells to prepare slides for chromosomal aberrations, micronuclei and gamma-H2AX foci experiments. We were split into four groups and each group worked on a different technique each afternoon.

On the first Saturday a trip was arranged for us to visit Uppsala University which is the oldest University in Scandinavia and some museums. It was a great day as Uppsala is a beautiful place and it was all paid for.

During the second week, we scored the slides already prepared by the SU staff, to create dose-response curves. After all the scoring was done, each group collated the results from their group members and prepared a presentation for the rest of the cohort on the last day of the course.

On Thursday night the course leader Professor Wojcik arranged a party at the University where we had the opportunity to try ‘Surströmming’ (Fermented herring) which is a Swedish delicacy.

On Friday morning each group delivered their presentations and then we had a Q&A session with other groups and the lLecturers. At the end, we all received nice little Certificates for our efforts and attendance.

I would recommend this course to anyone who has some interest in radiobiology and radiation. It is a great course delivered at a prestigious University, by a brilliant team. Plus you can combine it with a mini holiday and use the evenings to explore Stockholm.

Key Learning Outcomes

  • Appreciation of numerous techniques that could be utilised to measure the extent of radiation induced damage in cells.
  • Being able to follow protocols in order to prepare cultures for chromosomal aberrations, bi-nucleated micronuclei and gamma-H2AX Foci.
  • Understanding that although these techniques are well established and are considered valuable tools to measure radiation induced DNA damage, they are still highly subjective have great degree of inter-rater and intra-rater variability, especially if the scorer is inexperienced.
  • The opportunity to gain a better insight into the wider factors that play critical role(s) while investigating the relationship between cells/DNA and radiation, such as the genomic factors, by-standers effect and adaptive response.

In my opinion, courses like this are invaluable to students as they not only allow you to enhance your knowledge of the subject, they also provide you with opportunities to meet other students (some at the same level and some at higher academic level) to share and compare the established practices at each other’s institutes.

Additionally, it provides you with a rare opportunity to learn from and discuss with the leading researchers and lecturers from Europe and get an international perspective.

Finally, it is always helpful to have additional qualifications in your professional portfolio as they give you an extra edge when it comes to applying for jobs.

Soban Asghar
Sheffield Hallam University

 

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