A day in the life of a PhD candidate

4D Local drug distribution determination using advanced optical microscopy

In this series, the HTRIC PhD candidates will give a little insight in their life during their PhD. Nawal is one of our PhD candidates and currently 6 months into her HTRIC PhD. Within this blog she will update you about the latest developments within her research and share her thoughts.

As a PhD student studying the drug distribution among inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients, I never thought my work would involve making things disappear. However, this is exactly what I’ve been doing lately, using the magic of tissue-clearing technology to make the whole biopsy disappear so we can see what’s going on inside.

Tissue clearing involves using a unique solution, such as (i.e. benzyl Alcohol/benzyl benzoate), to make tissues more transparent, so we can image them more easily by eliminating the light scattering events that happen because of the opaqueness of our tissue which limits the imaging depth. Of course, like any good magic trick, there are some challenges involved, such as, tissue clearing is time-consuming and can be a bit tedious.

Additionally, there are also some technical challenges involved, like making sure the tissue structure, as well as the fluorescent dyes used to label the drugs, are not affected by the clearing process.

It’s kind of like walking a tightrope – we have to be careful not to disrupt the delicate balance of the tissues. But despite these challenges, I’ve actually had much fun working with tissue-clearing technology. It’s like being a magician, only instead of pulling rabbits out of hats, I’m making biopsies disappear.

And the best part is: This work could actually help improve treatment for IBD patients.

By using tissue-clearing technology, we can develop a better understanding of how drugs are distributed in the gastrointestinal tract. This, in turn, can lead to personalized treatment plans that are tailored to each patient’s unique needs. It’s exciting to be part of a project that could have such a positive impact on people’s lives.

So that has been quite a challenging and exciting ride, from working with pig’s colon to developing technology for personalized treatment.

If you’re interested in learning more about my adventures in tissue clearing, feel free to reach out – I’m always happy to chat about the magic of science!

Before clearing


After clearing