TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR ROLE
I am a researcher in the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, University of Oxford, and a member of the clinical islet transplant research group.
My research is focused on optimising the human islet isolation process, specifically, investigating the role of donor variables on islet isolation and islet transplantation outcomes using proteomics techniques to assess how specific protein profiles are affected by donor variables and the organ retrieval process. My role is not all about research, I am also part of the on-call clinical human islet isolation team, and thus take part in all aspects of the islet isolation process, which I find very rewarding.
Prior to the University of Oxford, I obtained a PhD in Biomedical and Life Sciences from the University of Lancaster. I have grown increasingly interested in diabetes research, particularly drug discovery and development. My undergraduate, as well as my PhD, research projects have been focused on the development of potential diabetes therapeutics.
Over the past decades, pancreatic islet transplantation has moved from an experimental procedure to a routine treatment option for patients with type 1 diabetes. Yet the broader application of this treatment has been limited owing to variable islet isolation outcomes, the lifelong immunosuppression requirement for recipients, and a global shortage of donor organs. My current role in optimising the human islet isolation process at Oxford will result in improved islet isolation outcomes and enabling greater numbers of successful islet transplants to be performed using marginal donors. Insights from this research could lead to the understanding of molecular pathways related to diabetes and metabolic diseases as well as the development of novel strategies for the treatment of diabetes and metabolic related diseases. This will be a great addition to diabetes research and medical sciences.
WHAT IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL ASPECT OF YOUR WORK?
The most meaningful aspect of my work is the life changing impact it has on patients. Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune condition, characterised by the selective destruction of insulin producing ß-cells within pancreatic islets, resulting in marginal or no insulin production and unstable glycaemic control. Conventional treatment with exogenous insulin, either by regular injections or an insulin pump, aims for glycaemic stability, but does not reverse the condition or replace the non-insulin producing cells within the destroyed islets that are believed to be important for integrated glycaemic control.
Several studies have shown the effect of islet transplantation on patients’ health and quality of life. Stable glucose control and absence of hypoglycaemic episodes have been shown to be the most beneficial outcomes following islet transplantation. The procedure is also minimally invasive, with few procedure related complications. I am proud to be part of this translational research and procedure, which is improving the lives of diabetic patients. Every successful human islet isolation I take part in is a life saved.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT SOMETHING YOU'VE DONE, CONTRIBUTED TO THAT YOU'RE MOST PROUD OF?
I am excited about my contribution to diabetes research in developing new drug targets for type 2 diabetes Mellitus (T2DM). Islet amyloid polypeptide, also known as amylin, is the main component of the amyloid deposits present in approximately 90% of people with T2DM. In this disease, amylin aggregates into multimeric beta-pleated sheet structures which cause damage to pancreatic islet beta-cells. Inhibitors of early-stage amylin aggregation could therefore provide a disease-modifying treatment for T2DM.
My PhD research was focused on the development of peptide-based inhibitors of amylin aggregation as a novel therapeutic for T2DM. Over the course of this research, I developed effective peptide inhibitors of human amylin aggregation. These peptides gave very clear dose-dependent inhibition of amylin fibril formation and were also stable against a range of different proteolytic enzymes, and in human plasma. In addition to the above, these peptides had protective effects on insulin-secreting cells from the toxic effects of human amylin and reversed human amylin fibril formation in a dose dependent manner. Results from this research is promising and could provide a novel treatment for slowing progression of T2DM. Details of this research has been published on Interface Focus, a royal society journal.
WHAT CHANGES WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO SEE IN THE MEDICAL SCIENCES IN THE NEXT 100 YEARS?
I would like to see great advancement in the field of genomics as this will provide better understanding to complex diseases. Understanding the genome and risk factors of a patient can help prevent certain diseases before they begin. Patients will also be able to get treatments that are personalised to them, leading to more effective treatment outcomes.