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Pierced researcher goes viral on Tik Tok with heart stem cells

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Pierced researcher goes viral on Tik Tok with heart stem cells

Every morning he goes to find ‘his’ cells in the laboratory, looks at them under a microscope, feeds them and then begins to experiment: this is the unusual everyday life of Marilù Casini26-year-old researcher, winner of the scholarship Marie Curie which sees her engaged in various countries including Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

As this is a project funded by the European Union, in fact, various universities and companies are expected to be involved in carrying out the same research on atrial fibrillation – heart disease – through the use of stem cells.

Love for cells

His predilection for these non-specialized cells, capable of differentiating by specializing in one of the many different types of cells present in our body, has distant origins: “Although I had never studied chemistry in high school, I tried the entrance test to the medical school . I failed miserably and Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Technologies was my fallback that soon became my passion. For the thesis, in fact, I ended up in a stem cell laboratory and it was love at first sight “, says the young researcher. , tracing in a conference organized with the professor and senator for life Elena Cattaneo the moment he realized he was on the right track. “He explained to us how stem cells can be used to treat neurodegenerative diseases and many other important pathologies – he recalls – but above all he focused on the figure of the researcher who has a social and political duty towards citizens”.

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Moved by this sense of duty, but also by the desire to have an experience abroad – where researchers have greater economic and professional satisfaction – after a post-graduate internship in Germany, Casini remained to do a PhD away from her A country that, unfortunately, does not invest enough in research.

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In the laboratories of half of Europe

“After an initial difficult period in Valencia, during which it was tiring to obtain the stem cells to work with, in the laboratory in Freiburg we entered the heart of research: together with my colleagues, we recreate heart cells starting from induced pluripotent stem cells. . This allows us to obtain human heart cells, on which we then reproduce the disease, precisely the atrial fibrillation, to study and find a cure – which can take years – for this cardiac arrhythmia “, he explains, defining this phase as the funniest.

In the laboratory with the music of Amy Winehouse

He really enjoys himself, in the lab, as he listens to Amy Winehouse during the experiments which sometimes last until late in the evening or require hours to be spent in the dark with the laser lights. And to make a subject such as science, often so feared, less difficult, she has also become a scientific popularizer: “Always following the teaching of Professor Cattaneo, I decided to also engage in dissemination on social networks. I started in January last year, in the period in which they started administering the first Covid vaccines, as I felt the duty to provide correct information, while confusion and fake news raged “, says the young woman, recently awarded the L’Oreal-Unesco Prize” For Women in Science “.

Viral experiments on Tik Tok

Soon, his ‘explanations’ on the daily life of a researcher, on the times of science and on his experiments went viral, attracting, at the moment, 20,000 followers on Instagram and over 60,000 on Tik Tok.

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They are mainly under 35, including students of scientific faculties, researchers, but also very young people curious to explore the world of science, made attractive by simple language, musical backgrounds and quick and ironic editing.

Lately, Casini, who is openly homosexual, has decided to broaden his field of action, also addressing issues such as the gender gap in the scientific world, the lack of consideration of the LGBT + community and the inevitable discrimination and stereotypes, of which he is often a victim. .

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Against discrimination

“I am tired of constantly receiving comments about my piercing which, according to some, makes me less credible, about my short hair, about my gender identity. Recently, during a scientific conference, a teacher, next to me, said to loud voice “I’m not homophobic, but now being gay is a fashion. Gay lobbies are also invading academia “and I found myself having to manage the embarrassment of discrimination suffered in a professional context where little should matter about my physical appearance or my private life”, she adds, while not it contains regret for the prevailing gender gap also in the world of research, where it has never seen women or homosexuals hold top positions.

Gender gap also in research

She is proud to have become a ‘spokesperson’ for many colleagues who find themselves in the same situation, but do not have the courage to stand up to defend their rights. So much so that, in the coming weeks, she will be among the protagonists of the #SHEU Leads campaign, promoted by the European Union to highlight young women who are distinguishing themselves in the sectors of innovation, research, culture and sport, with a aimed at rights and inclusiveness.

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A video

She will make a video in which she will tell what it means to be a young researcher, woman and homosexual, in a context that she defines as “malecentric”, but she will also focus on the change that she would like to take place in the scientific world, sometimes, especially following the pandemic, discredited for the lack of a correct and transparent communication.

“I would like a science that is more open to society, more inclusive, more based on collaboration between scientists with different backgrounds and not focused only on numbers and publications”, declares Marilù Casini who is an indomitable volcano, so much so that he has also created a group, PhDisagiowhere he offers exchange of information, advice and support to colleagues around Europe and young people who would like to undertake these studies.

The depression of the researchers

“The precariousness and, sometimes, the failed experiments, make us researchers more subject to phenomena of depression, anxiety, stress and burnout. Also on this problem, which is very little talked about, I intend to lend a hand”, he concludes, while organizing the first live meeting of the group PhDisagio which he hopes will soon become an association in Italy, where, who knows, maybe one day he will return to reunite with his loved ones and “his” cells, with the same opportunities he currently has only abroad.

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