Excellent research and a varied work day

Anna Frank is developing chip models of the bile ducts to research how to treat immune-driven conditions, such as PSC (primary sclerosing cholangitis).

A photo of Scientia Fellow Anna Frank

Scientia Fellows Anna Frank. Photo: Fredrik Naumann/Felix Features

Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC):

is a chronic disease in which the bile ducts inside and outside the liver become inflamed and scarred, and eventually narrowed or blocked. When this happens, bile builds up in the liver and causes liver damage. Source

Anna Frank joined Espen Melums` group as part of an exchange from her university in Germany during her PhD. The visit was so successful that she decided to apply for a Scientia Fellows position in the group, and Frank started as a postdoc in 2020.

“I have always been interested in biology, and wanted a meaningful job with variation. Now, I am working in the lab using my background, but also developing an in vitro ‘organ-on-a chip technology’ to mimic the in vivo situation better than would be possible in mice.”

“The mouse models, which are usually used to study immunological events during the progression of the disease, are limited in giving insights into the complexity of the processes”, explains Frank.

No treatment yet

There is no known treatment to stop or slow down PSC, and patients eventually need a liver transplant. Studies show that even patients that receive a liver transplant tend to become sick again. Patients are also at a higher risk of certain cancer diagnoses.

“With the in vitro organ-on a-chip technology, we can manipulate and study the underlying background of the disease. We do not have the technical challenges of imaging and reaching narrow structures of the bile duct in vivo, and we are able to study disease-related mechanisms closely under the microscope”, says Anna Frank.

“With the DUCT chip, we hope to learn a lot more about the causes of PSC and be able to screen a variety of drugs to find possible treatments for the disease.”

Variation and room to grow

One element that makes this possible is a collaboration with the Hybrid Technology Hub and Mathias Busek, who also joined the University of Oslo as a Scientia Fellow at the beginning of 2020. He is an engineer and builds the chips to develop the organoids. 

“This job is meaningful, and it gives me the variation of practical work in the lab, performing analyses and writing, and discussing research with my peers and mentors.”, says Frank.

“My ambition is to write enough top-tier articles that will enable me to apply for my own funding. I have just started the in vitro project, and it has a lot of potential for further study and development”.

Norwegian PSC Research Center

  • Established 2008
  • Collaboration between Oslo University Hospital Rikshospitalet and the University of Oslo, with funding by Canica.
  • Aims to motivate and perform high-quality PSC research
  • Coordinates and distributes resources for PSC research
  • Runs Biobank and PSC Registry
  • Read more here

Scientia Fellows

  • Transnational fellowship programme (2019-2024) in the field of Health Life Sciences.
  • Based at the University of Oslo
  • Co-funded by EU and Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions
  • Read more here 




Published Sep. 16, 2021 3:45 PM - Last modified Jan. 13, 2022 9:13 AM