Oxygen tank, some pieces of lead, an air vest, and a buddy, and we are ready to jump into the water. After some initial panic of breathing out of a tube, equalizing the ears, here opens a wonder of the underwater world.

Few meters under the water surface, shades of the waves subtle print on the rocks, coral and sea plants gently move with the flow of the current. Here and there, school of fishes shutter around. Some goes to specific plants to hide or find food, some just swims around.It’s quiet, and if we want to know what’s happening, what is the story behind a specific thing, we need to listen…by observing and analysing few of its kinds. At the end of the dive, we get up, share a warm drink and discuss with our buddy about our observations, and next time, observe again to test our stories.

That’s more or less what I see, do and experience every day in my laboratory, as a post-doc researcher in the Genetics department, UMC Groningen ;p. Just a small difference though, I don’t dive into the water to study aquamarine, but a blood vessel to study infectious disease pathology, instead.


As rivers or seas connect lands and islands, our blood vessels connect our organs. It brings food, oxygen and transport all communicative signals between organs. In case of infection, these blood vessel cells present specific proteins called adhesion molecules to attract while blood cells, as coral attracts fishes. These white blood cells can then sense the SOS signals from a nearby tissues/ organ and match there to fight the infectious pathogens. To understand more on how each of us, with a unique gene and history of infection react to blood infection (sepsis), I conduct experiments on the blood vessel cells (endothelial cells) and their interaction with white blood cells. Within the NOCI consortium, I am able to mimic the blood vessel structure (flow and dimension) in microfluidic chips. I’m still looking forward to everyday in the lab, with an open eye, ear and mind to listen to the blood vessel stories!




Kieu Le
NOCI Postdoc at UMCG