Let’s start from the beginning please. May I ask what were you working on before your career break?
My main interest was the study of microRNA (miRNA) – short regulatory molecules in the pathogenesis of adult leukemias, specifically in chronic lymphocytic leukemia, which has a very variable course and response to treatment, so it is desirable to have markers, which will help us predict how will the patients react to the treatment. The outcome of this work was a patent under the MU for the use of miRNA as such markers at the clinic. The follow-up research was a study of the biological role of miRNA in for example B cell signalling, which is a key communication channel for both healthy and leukemic cells, which are now targeted by the latest therapies.
Doctor, after how long are you returning to research activities?
I am returning to the academic environment after three years I spent on parental leave in the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, where we were partially allocated through my husband’s work, which was, of course, a little complicated throughout the Covid period. During my first year of parental leave, I was also completing my doctoral studies, including writing and defending my doctoral thesis.
Have you been in close contact with your colleagues from the team?
We are in almost daily contact with my colleagues from my former team, which is partly due to the fact that part of the members of the laboratory left for parental leave around the same time, but we also maintain friendly relationships with other members of the laboratory, including those, who joined after our departure. We were in contact with colleagues from the new team for about a quarter of a year before I joined.
Is it difficult to get back on a moving train after an interruption?
The comparison to a running train is quite adequate 😊 Currently, I have also changed my research team and specialisation, however, the study of miRNA and other aspects of my original specialisation remains. My family, my great colleagues, and the Head of our research team Dr. Dáša Bohačiaková have been a great help and support for me.
This year you succeeded in GA MU Career Restart with the project Next-generation sequencing in neural development and disease. How did you find out about the grant and how was the process of preparation for you?
The MU employees are regularly informed about open calls for new projects and at the same time, it was brought to my attention by a number of my former classmates, who have been working at MU for a long time. However, I was motivated the most by the Head of our group. Due to the change of research topic, the preparation of the application for this grant was part of ongoing studies of a new subject matter. Compared to complex applications that involve extensive planning of experiments, the preparation is significantly easier, however, obtaining this grant is just as binding and motivating for future work. At the same time, I consider this grant to be a sort of reward for my previous work.
What is your project about?
The project focuses on the use of next-generation sequencing (NGS) mainly to study the mechanisms of neural differentiation (development of cells of the nervous system) and the use of this knowledge for researching diseases of the nervous system, such as Alzheimer’s disease and some other oncological diagnoses. The output of NGS is a quantum of biological/bioinformatics data, in which we try to find, study and then explain the differences in functioning of for example, healthy and diseased cells of the nervous system. As a model for the study of these processes, we use cerebral organoids, which are 3D cellular cultures that you can imagine as miniature brains in which we can simulate various diseases and conditions and which are widely used not only in the study of neurodegenerative diseases such as the already mentioned Alzheimer’s, but also in the study of oncological diseases, which in the case of brain tumours, are difficult to imitate in the laboratory conditions.
What is the period of support of the project and how will it help you to synchronize professional and private life?
The project support lasts for two years and clearly contributes towards greater financial stability and the ability to provide care for my son and pay for other educational activities and at the same time allows better concentration on the research itself. Considering that it is a very variable grant, it is possible to use it on own professional training and possible support of the research activity itself. Due to the unstable salary conditions in academia, I perceive it also as a sort of financial buffer for the payment of kindergarten fees in the future.
About the scientist
Kateřina Amruz Černá graduated in Experimental Biology at the Faculty of Science MU and continued her studies with a doctoral study programme Oncology at FM MU. As part of her research activities, she completed two short-term internships in Heidelberg and Cambridge, where she focused mainly on the methodology of next-generation sequencing with the subsequent application of the acquired knowledge in miRNA research. She was a founding member of the now-senior laboratory of the Microenvironment of Immune Cells at CEITEC MU. After returning from parental leave, she continued her previous successful collaboration with the laboratory of Dr. Dáša Bohačiaková at the Department of Histology FM MU, where she joined the research of neural differentiation and the study of neurodegenerative diseases.