News - June 14, 2018

Breeding small organs in New Zealand

Who? Charlotte Hendriks, MSc student of Food Technology
What: Internship at research institute AgResearch
Where? Palmerston North, New Zealand

Text Femke Janssen

29-HEW foto 1.jpg

‘I read an article in National Geographic about the safest countries in the world. New Zealand was one of them. That made me think: cool, I’m going to a kind of Wageningen 2.0, in terms of security. As it turned out, that wasn’t the case. It wasn’t safe to walk around the city centre alone after a night out. There were lots of youth hanging around looking for trouble, and I saw several fights in pubs. Cycling is not the same there either. Although a lot of people do cycle in Palmerston North, the car drivers are not used to it. There are a lot of accidents. And it is compulsory for cyclists to wear helmets and safety vests.

Pig cells

My research was about organoids, cultured mini-organs. It is a very new technique, using cells to grow a new organ. We used cells from pigs’ colons to create a new colon. Then we put fermented cow’s or goat’s milk into it to see how the organoids reacted. We looked at what was produced at cell level and in terms of fermentation. It is very difficult to research this in the body. And this new model is more realistic than what you get using an individual cell culture. So it is a useful middle way, and that makes it interesting for doing further research. Work is still going on to find an optimal culture technique.

29-HEW foto 3.jpg

Bought a car

A friend and I bought a car together, a Princess. We went off in it every weekend. It seated seven people so we could take other interns and friends along. That was supercool. The most amazing experience was when we went skiing on Mount Ruapehu, a volcano. You looked out over the whole valley and that was very beautiful.
It was quite challenging for me to go to New Zealand. It is on the other side of the world, so people couldn’t just drop by. But once I was there I found out how nice it is to get to know all sorts of new people. I was so busy with everything that I wasn’t often homesick. It was an advantage that most of the foreigners there were alone. That meant we all had a lot of time for each other and invested a lot in each other, because we didn’t have anyone else. That made for very close contact.’