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Student Research: It’s all about the heart!

There is a strong tradition of students joining research groups during their education at the University of Szeged. This month, Ernesto Ruivo

3 explained his work at the University to our readers:

This Department and research group is extremely enthusiastic, and soon I realized that I was able to participate in many cardiovascular research projects, whether if they were in vivo, ex vivo or in vitro projects.

At the lab our attention is focused in cardiovascular diseases, specifically ischemic heart disease, which being the leading cause of death worldwide, makes it a research field with high clinical relevance. When I joined the research group I started with some projects that gave me the first insight to this cardiovascular research field. To make it simple, by the application of ischemia and reperfusion periods, whether if we are talking about ligation of coronary arteries (in vivo/ex vivo) or hypoxic chambers (in vitro), we are able to simulate similar conditions to those, which develop upon myocardial infarction. Saying so, different drugs can be tested in order to evaluate their capacity to ameliorate the harm inflicted by this stressful event. Therefore the work I’ve presented in the first conferences was entitled: Improvement of an in vitro drug-screening platform using adult rat cardiomyocytes.

1Recently, I’ve changed my research field into a very promising and interesting project: stem cell derived cardiomyocytes. To understand their importance, we have to look at the conventional treatments and approaches that exist nowadays for myocardial infarction, like e.g. PCI, CABG and different drugs, they are only able to reduce the consequences induced by this event. These approaches are not able to recover the infarcted tissue and that is one of the reasons that make stem cell derived cardiomyocytes so important because they can be used for cardiac cell replacement therapy and in this way replace the dead tissue for new healthy tissue, recovering in this way the cardiac function. Therefore nowadays, I am presenting the work entitled: Stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes identification with cardiac specific markers: Troponin I and vascular cell adhesion molecule type 1.

5With a lot of work and involvement at various projects, and since one does research in order to progress not only at personal but also professional level, soon the participation at conferences came about. In my 2nd semester of 4th year of University, the first conference came and it was at a local level, TDK (Tudományos Diákköri Konferencia) here in Szeged in April of 2014. With it I won the 3rd prize in the category of Physiology, Pathophysiology and Pharmacology. On the same month I went to my 2nd conference, this time in Gdansk, Poland, and there I won the 1st prize in Cardiology session plus the 3rd place overall. In the beginning of my 5th year, in September 2014 I went to one of the biggest international conferences in Europe, the so-called European Students’ Conference in Berlin, Germany. From there I came with the 1st prize in Biochemistry session and 3rd place overall. Recently, in February 2015, I participated once more in the local TDK conference where I won the 1st prize in Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology session with granted permission to attend the OTDK (Országos Tudományos Diákköri Konferencia), in Budapest. The balance of all these conferences have been nothing but positive and with it I was invited to become a ‘demonstrator’ at the Biochemistry department which means that since the starting of 5th year I have been giving practical Biochemistry classes to 2nd year students at the University of Szeged.

Despite the personal investment that all this requires, the achievements at personal and professional level greatly reward all the work. At the University of Szeged there are plenty of opportunities to those interested in doing research and most of the departments are willing to welcome and to help you if you are indeed curious about research life. And of course, doing research does not mean you will be a rat lab. I see myself doing clinical work once I am done with medical school, but despite that fact, the opportunity to fill up your curriculum vitae, the possibility to be acquainted with the newest discoveries and the chance to be involved in them is something unique.