Fourth course: Fromtiers in Translational Medicine (Part-1)

The final course at Karolinska is Frontiers in Translational Medicine or FTM. This course is of 16.5 credits and thus the longest course.

The course has two main aspects:

1) The theory lectures and facility visits

2) Project

Today I will be talking about the theory lectures and facility visits.

The course is designed to give an introduction to various fields of research in complex diseases and the application of next generation high throughput techniques to develop improved therapeutic approaches that can be eventually used in clinics.

Initially, we were introduced to various types of animal models such as  Mice and Zebra fish. We also visited the zebra fish facility at KI and learned about the breeding techniques, and its potential applications in research.

Zebra fish facility at KI
Source: Presentation slides (Zebra fish facility)

In the following weeks we lectures on various advanced molecular techniques such as FACS, CRISPR Cas-9 system and a special lecture on Organ-on-Chip. In the same week we also had our first lab of the programme. The objective of this lab was to get hands on experience in genotyping techniques. We performed genotyping in groups of 5 per team, using two techniques: Pyrosequencing and Taqman based sequencing. The samples we used were from a patient, donated for research study. Post lab, we did some troubleshooting and tried to hypothesize the possible cause of deviation from the expected results, carried out from previous studies.

One of the most interesting part of the course was the Proteomics Day. We  had lectures in the morning from various researchers from the proteomics core facility at Scilife Labs. They talked about techniques used for proteomics studies. One of the lecture was on the development of the Human Protein Atlas. Post lunch we visited the proteomics facilities and explored the labs and various equipment such as FACS, CyTOF (Mass cytometer), Confocal Microscopes and its variations, specialized instruments to perform ELISA analysis, and last but not the least Mass Spectrometer.

After familiarizing with various techniques in the initial weeks of the course, we entered specialized fields of complex diseases. Each week followed a theme, and the experts in these fields gave us an insight on application of various techniques we learned in the initial weeks.

We had three main themes of Cardiovascular diseases, Cancer and  Neurosciences, followed by  another week of other interdisciplinary topics. For example; in the Neuroscience week we had lectures on Neurodevelopment studies using iPSC’s and CRISPR, non coding RNA in multiple sclerosis, genetics in neurodegeneration and in-vitro studies in human brain tissue using Position Emission Tomography. Thus, the lectures were well balanced in exploring both the research as well as the clinical aspetcs.

Along with these we had Journal Clubs for each theme, virtual simulations from LABSTER for all the experimental techniques, and some lectures on Precision Medicine and human microbiome.

This part of the course had a final written exam which was very interesting. One of the questions was to design a research question and write the answer for the same using experimental techniques. Thinking about a simple research question and solving it was a good challenge.