14 November 2022 – To EMBO Postdoctoral Fellow Nikolai Klena, cilia are some of nature’s most fascinating structures. These hair-like organelles that protrude from the cell surface help algae and single-celled eukaryotes to move around. In mammalian cells, they function as an antenna — playing key roles in regulating cellular signaling. Cilia have been implicated in a group of disorders that affect the development of essential organs, including the brain, heart and liver.
After obtaining a PhD from the University of Geneva in Switzerland, Klena was awarded an EMBO Postdoctoral Fellowship to join the Human Technopole in Milan, Italy. There, he investigates the structure of cilia using electron microscopy and other structural biology techniques. Understanding the structure of cilia will help to elucidate how they work and what goes awry in disease. “We know that primary cilia are important for signaling pathways, but we really don’t know what’s in there,” Klena says. At the Human Technopole — Italy’s new hub for research in the life sciences — Klena can take advantage of expert advice and state-of-the-art equipment. “The microscopes and the facilities are truly incredible, and they’ve brought in some world-class talent to help you learn and use these pieces of equipment,” he says. Besides doing exciting science using advanced technologies, Klena also benefits from the training and network opportunities provided by EMBO. “An EMBO fellowship really opens your possibilities,” he says. Living in Italy, which offers a high quality of life and a rich cultural heritage, is “the icing on the cake.”