Project VIII

Studying vesicular content and trafficking in osteoclasts using advanced imaging, including TEM tomography.

Emma McDermott

My name is Emma McDermott and I am from Creeslough in County Donegal, Ireland.  From a very young age I have always been very inquisitive about the world around me and this led to my interest in science and research. I completed my undergraduate degree in Anatomy in 2011 in the National University of Ireland, Galway. I then went on to do a master’s degree in Regenerative Medicine in 2013, also in Galway, where my research project focused on the characterisation of induced pluripotent stem cells derived from patients with fragile X syndrome.

In May 2014, I began working as an Early Stage Researcher as part of the Musculoskeletal Group in the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. The most enjoyable part of scientific research for me is that I am constantly learning new things every day and while it can be challenging, I enjoy finding ways of overcoming these challenges.

When I am not working in the lab I enjoy reading, spending time with my family and friends, and visiting the sites and scenery around Aberdeen and Scotland. I can be contacted by email at

Miep Helfrich

I am Miep Helfrich (officially Marie Helfrich) and originally from Groningen in The Netherlands. For the past 26 years I have lived in the UK, the last 22 years in Aberdeen in Scotland.

I have studied osteoclasts since my PhD at the University of Leiden, in The Netherlands. They are the most fascinating cells I can think of: bulldozers that squirt acid and degrading enzymes ahead of them, but at the same time can look like beautiful jellyfish dancing over the bone surface. I have studied osteoclasts in health and in diseases such as osteopetrosis and Paget’s disease of bone where they do not work at all, or work too hard respectively. From such studies in disease we learn a lot about how the cells do their work normally. I use mainly microscopical techniques and have a particular fondness of ultrastructural microscopy.

I am excited that for the coming 4 years I will be working so closely with other osteoclast enthusiasts to train up a new generation of osteoclastophiles. I am the first supervisor on Emma’s project and second supervisor of the project of Anh.

When I am not in the lab I love being out in the Scottish hills and collecting bones, antlers and other materials for craft projects. I also love art and visiting museums, exhibitions and performances. Combining art and science is something I would love to do as part of the Euroclast public engagement activities. You can contact me at

Fraser Coxon

I am Fraser Coxon, the primary supervisor of project VI and second supervisor of project VIII. I have worked on osteoclasts at the University of Aberdeen for 15 years, initially in elucidating the molecular mechanism of action of bisphosphonates. These drugs are powerful inhibitors of bone resorption by osteoclasts and as a result have become the most widely used treatments for bone diseases such as osteoporosis.

My research in this area revealed the crucial role of intracellular trafficking pathways for degradation of bone by osteoclasts, which has led to my current focus on understanding the molecular mechanisms that control these pathways in osteoclasts in health and disease.

When not in the lab I enjoy spending time with my family, playing and watching sport (in particular soccer and tennis), and  exploring the Scottish countryside with my camera.  I can be contacted by email on

Our Project

The objectives of this study are to characterise the vesicular compartment in osteoclasts and study the trafficking of these vesicles, in particular to the resorptive apparatus of the osteoclast known as the ruffled border.

We will identify these vesicles and their contributions to the ruffled border using advanced microscopical approaches such as immunofluorescence and immuno-electron microscopy.

Also, using the 3D micro-imaging technique Transmission EM tomography, we will be able to investigate the fusion events involved in the formation of the ruffled border and its microanatomy in greater detail than ever before.

Our postal address is:
Musculoskeletal Research Programme
Institute of Medical Sciences
AB25 2ZD

Fraser, Emma and Miep on the Foresterhill Campus in Aberdeen, November 2014