14 November 2022 – EMBO Scientific Exchange Grantee Aleksandra Gruevska grew up wanting to improve people’s health. After obtaining a degree in pharmacy in her home country Macedonia, Gruevska went on to do a Master in Pharmacological Research at the University of Valencia in Spain, where she’s now completing a PhD.
As part of her PhD project, Gruevska is identifying new pharmacological targets for chronic liver disease and liver fibrosis — a process that occurs when liver tissue becomes scarred. “We found that one antiretroviral drug had protective effects on the liver, but we don’t know all the molecular mechanisms behind these effects,” she says. Thanks to her EMBO Scientific Exchange Grant, Gruevska was able to spend three months in a laboratory at the University of Florence, in Italy, to learn how to isolate and grow a specific population of liver cells called hepatic stellate cells. Hepatic stellate cells promote fibrosis in response to liver injury or long-term inflammation. Using these and other populations of cells, Gruevska and her colleagues can study the signaling pathways involved in the processes of wound healing and regeneration of the liver. “I liked very much my experience in Italy, on a professional and personal level,” Gruevska says. “I met wonderful people who helped me to see things differently and grow as a scientist.” The international experience also spurred new collaborations between the University of Valencia and researchers in Italy, she says. “This grant was very important — for me and for the lab.”