Mai Wageh, a PhD-student from McMaster University in Canada, recently spent six weeks in Prof. Kathy Myburgh's lab at Stellenbosch University (SU) to gain technical expertise in extracellular vesicle (EV) analysis.
The visit was made possible by a travel grant from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). The Howard G. “Skip" Knuttgen International Travel Award encourages young scientists to undertake creative approaches to promote the acquisition of technical expertise and scientific knowledge through an international research learning programme at a host outside of Canada and the USA.
Prof. Myburgh is a Fellow of the ACSM (a requirement for hosting a student) and a leading expert in the emerging field of extracellular vesicle (EV) research. She also holds the South African research chair in Integrative Skeletal Muscle Physiology, Biology and Biotechnology in SU's Department of Physiological Sciences.
Research activities in the field of extracellular vesicles (EVs) have exploded over the past two decades since researchers discovered that these nanoparticles, produced in their millions by all cells in the body, carry proteins and valuable genetic material important for intercellular communication.
However, preparing the samples for analysis is a technically demanding exercise. There is, for example, 109 billion EVs in one millilitre of blood. Once the particles have been isolated, they can be analysed by standard techniques such as flow cytometry.
Mai says the six weeks were fast-paced and productive: “My research focuses on sex differences in muscle damage and the role of underlying hormones. With the technical expertise I acquired, I can now also investigate sex-based differences in the role of extracellular vesicles after exercise, and teach others back home in our lab how to prepare EV samples for analysis".
According to Prof. Myburgh there was a good exchange of knowledge, since Mai also brought a lot of expertise with her from working in the Molecular Exercise Physiology and Muscle Aging Lab, led by Dr. Gianni Parise at McMaster University. This lab focuses on the role of exercise as an activator of muscle stem cells, or satellite cells, in younger and older adults to determine the effects of aging and possible interventions
According to Prof. Myburgh, the exchange benefited her students also learned from Mai's expertise in multi-component immunohistochemistry, a technique used to visualise and identify various factors in exercised muscle tissue including satellite cells, neutrophils (myeloperoxidase), alongside the resident components of the stem cell niche, i.e. muscle borders and existing nuclei in the muscle.
On the photo above: Mai Wageh and Prof. Kathy Myburgh. Photo: Wiida Fourie-Basson