Amal Hassan is working to uncover the dynamics of pain-associated ion channels in nerve cells
Amal Hassan is a 26-year-old PhD student conducting research on acid-sensing ion channels – portals in nerve cells that are promising targets for pain treatments. She is in the Structural Biology Unit of the University of Milan, where she focuses on a particular ion channel known as ASIC1, and in her research she is attempting a tricky feat: crystallizing the proteins of this channel together with inhibitors. In her Italian lab, she had the capability to create protein structures in bacterial cells, but her particular research goal demanded a different system for growing and solving the structure of these complexes.
Hassan, who is from Nazareth, Israel, turned to the Instruct Internship Programme – a European organization that helps young researchers get to the scientific techniques they need through fostering international collaboration — and found herself back in Israel at the Weizmann Institute of Science, in Rehovot. The Instruct-ISPC (Israel Structural Proteomics Center) is one of the most advanced in the world in the field of proteomics.
Over the course of the two months provided by the grant, Hassan had access not only to the ISPC facilities, but the wide range of knowledge of the Center’s staff. Already, at the beginning of her internship, she wrote: “I have already started to gain knowledge and good practical experience with number of new techniques in the ISPC such as the Restriction_Free (RF)-cloning method, mammalian tissue culture, handling viral production and expression in sf9 insect cells. In next months, together with the ISPC’s expertise, I am going to produce two constructs of full length ASIC1a in large quantities in order to set up some crystallization trials.”
”I am very grateful to be funded by Instruct and able to do this training in one of the most prestigious Institutes of science in the world, in my country with a special taste,” she added.
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