Early Stage Researcher

Arya Lekshmi Nair
My project:
11 | Modelling neuroinflammation in 3D neurovascular unit model
Arya Lekshmi Nair
Host Organisation:
MIMETAS, Netherlands

What is your project/research about? What would you like to find out?

My project aims at developing a microfluidic in vitro model of the human neuro-vascular unit (NVU) in the Mimetas OrganoPlate®, and modelling neuroinflammation to study disease conditions such as stroke and/or multiple sclerosis. The OrganoPlate® is a cutting-edge, high-throughput organ-on-a-chip platform that is capable of mimicking native tissue physiology and heterogeneity by incorporating micrometer-sized channels and continuous perfusion to maintain organ-level functions. In my research, I will employ iPSC-derived human cells to generate different cell populations of the NVU to build a physiologically relevant and functional NVU model. Since the blood-brain barrier (BBB) is crucial in maintaining brain homeostasis and is often seen to be disrupted in most of the diseases associated with CNS, I aim to focus on this aspect in my models to determine factors regulating neuroinflammation in CNS diseases. We hope that the results from this research will be useful in promoting clinical translation and in identifying potential drug targets for effective therapies.

Why did you apply for a Marie Skłodowska-Curie ITN and especially this project?

Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowships are among Europe’s most prestigious awards that are known to promote interdisciplinary research and training of young researchers in a highly competitive environment. I was exploring relevant opportunities to pursue my doctoral studies in the arena of organs-of-chips when I came across an open ESR position at Mimetas as part of ENTRAIN. Mimetas develops and validates 3D human tissue models using a unique microfluidic technology, and I have always been fascinated by the research that is done here. Additionally, the potential to perform challenging work in a super exciting research area such as neuroscience along with opportunities to collaborate with experts in the field attracted me to this consortium. In my opinion, one of the best things about Marie Curie PhD is the international collaboration allowing exchange of knowledge and expertise across research institutes and organizations. Not to mention is the massive exposure it offers its fellows to both academia and industry through secondments. Considering the opportunities and benefits such a PhD can offer, this was something that I didn’t want to miss! 

What is so fascinating for you on research in general?

It is the possibility of exploring and finding the ‘unknown’. In research, we evolve! There is nothing that is considered impossible here. I like it that we are always curious about something or the other in research which eventually educates us, and this keeps us going.

What do you do in your free time? Do you have special interests/hobbies?

I love travelling and exploring new cuisines. I also enjoy nature photography. Other than that, I mostly spend time with friends during my free time. Additionally, I’m considering doing more sports and stepping into martial arts soon.

What are your plans for your future? Where/what you will be in 5 years?

For now, I would like to stay in research and drive the development of improved in vitro models for pre-clinical studies and drug development, and possibly witness how my models promote clinical translation.

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