Founded in 1858, Keio is one of the most prestigious private universities in Japan. Exactly one year ago, I had the honor to join the laboratory of Assoc. Prof. Yoshimasa Saito and Prof. Hidetsugu Saito for two months in Tokyo. I worked on the epigenetic characterization of cholangiocarcinoma organoids, which was an intriguing and valuable experience for me. Cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) is highly chemoresistant and no reliable diagnostic biomarkers are available so far. Considering the increasing incidence rate of CCA in Japan, it is of high importance to unravel the underlying mechanisms of disease. In particular, I joined Prof. Saito’s team to dissect the methylation signatures of CCA organoids (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1: Immunohistochemistry staining of 5-hydroxy-methyl-cytosine of CCA organoids (right) compared to the corresponding primary tumor (left).
Within the LBIAD, we are working on similar topics for colorectal and prostate cancer. I had the chance to get training in advanced cell culture techniques and insights relevant for my PhD project. I was humbled to meet and discuss with Assoc. Prof. Toshiro Sato, a pioneer in organoid culture techniques and an inspiring researcher.
During my stay in Japan, I was greeted with great hospitality. At first, communication seemed to be an obstacle. However, many colleagues were patient with my lack of knowledge of the language and eventually we have always found ways to reach an understanding.
Looking back, this internship was one of the best intercultural experiences I had so far. Besides the more obvious practical expertise that I gained during my internship in the lab, travelling to Japan has enhanced my scientific networks, increased my knowledge of research culture and social awareness. This awareness helps me to be more prepared to interact in a culturally-sensitive manner in international settings, including conferences and collaboration meetings.
I am thankful to my supervisor Assoc. Prof. Gerda Egger for her support as well as the whole LBI:AD team. Special thanks also go to the LBG Career Center for financial support of the Japanese Language Course. Finally, I would like to thank Assoc. Prof. Yoshimasa Saito, Prof. Hidetsugu Saito and the lab members for hosting me.