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September 12, 2023

CiRA Research Internship Program Student Interview vol. 2
-Looking at Medical Conditions Under a Different Light-

Saumya Maheshwari (The University of Edinburgh)
poses at an open lab in CiRA.

By Kelvin Hui, Ph.D.
CiRA Research Promoting Office

For Saumya Maheshwari, a student in his final year of medical school at the University of Edinburgh in his home country, Scotland, his eyes have always been on stem cells. From his work on Friedreich’s ataxia at University of Oxford for his master’s degree to his research internship at Massachusetts General Hospital studying immunomodulation as a novel therapeutic strategy to treat traumatic brain injuries, he has always recognized the power of cutting-edge experimental approaches, such as stem cells and immunotherapy, in modern medicine. "Looking to try something new and exciting and step outside of my comfort zone," Maheshwari explained his decision to join this year’s CiRA Research Internship Program and get his feet wet in human embryology.

During his three weeks at CiRA, he worked on two research projects in the laboratory of Dr. Yasuhiro Takashima (Associate Professor, Department of Life Science Frontiers), studying trophoblast stem cells and extraembryonic mesoderm. He was involved in various experiments in the lab, getting a chance to culture trophoblast and naïve pluripotent stem cells and characterizing them using different techniques like immunocytochemistry, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, and flow cytometry.

He credits the internship experience for giving him new insights on stem cells. Having previously used stem cells as a tool, he got a different perspective through the internship program. "I got a glimpse into the development of medical treatments from the point of view of human embryology," Maheshwari noted. He learned about life-threatening conditions such as preeclampsia and using stem cell-based models to better our understanding of such developmental disorders and discover new treatment options.

Outside of CiRA, Maheshwari took advantage of his first time in Japan to climb the iconic Mount Fuji and enjoy the spectacular sunrise from its summit under perfect conditions. He also visited many shrines and temples in Kyoto, in addition to experiencing the tranquility of the bamboo forest in Arashiyama and getting a taste of history at the Samurai and Ninja Museum.

He thanked everyone in the lab for being extremely friendly and making him feel at home, teaching him many things about human embryology and having stimulating scientific discussions, as well as introducing him to Japanese culture, and last but certainly not least, taking him out for a bowl of delicious ramen during lunchtime.

After completing his medical training, Maheshwari plans to pursue his Ph.D. and become a clinical academic. With several members in the lab being clinician-scientists, he said it was interesting to learn how they juggle their time in the clinic and the lab. Through this internship experience, Maheshwari may now also consider human embryology and its translational application as a potential research area for his Ph.D. training.

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