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Personal profile

Research interests

My research interest is cartilage – often thought of as an inert, gristly material, in reality is a fascinating tissue.

Articular cartilage

Articular cartilage – lines the surface of bones of articulating joints, protecting the underlying bone from the mechanical forces associated with movement and support. Degeneration of articular cartilage results in chronic diseases affecting millions of people in the UK alone, osteoarthritis (OA) being the most common. OA was once thought of as simply a result of wear and tear, but it is now believed the resident cells of cartilage, chondrocytes, play a key role in its initiation and progression. Currently we know little of the disease process, and consequently the treatment options are limited.

Chondrocyte morphology has been observed to change in osteoarthritis cartilage, indicating a shift in cell phenotype. My work with Dr Andrew Hall (University of Edinburgh) has identified an increased number of these cells and their expression of the powerful inflammatory cytokine interleukin 1beta (IL-1beta) with the progression of osteoarthritis. Indeed, cell changes have been observed in apparently normal articular cartilage suggesting a role in the initiation of the disease process. Researchers are further investigating this novel observation.

One treatment option for patients suffering from OA is joint resurfacing using osteochondral (bone+cartilage) donor grafts (mosaicplasty). Unfortunately, availability of suitable and safe tissue is limited due to the lack of options for tissue storage. My research group is interested in how to improve upon this, developing novel techniques to allow successful cryopreservation of articular cartilage.

Growth plate cartilage

The growth plate, also known as the epiphyseal plate, is entirely responsible for bone lengthening through childhood and adolescence. It is a fundamental process, driven by the increase in volume of growth plate chondrocytes, but the cellular mechanisms are relatively unknown. I am interested in how these cells increase their size, and what regulates the change in volume.

Osteosarcoma

Osteosarcomas are bone cancers which predominantly affect children and adolescents; they typically occur next to the growth plate. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs which are an important regulator of gene expression in cells, and may be involved in osteosarcoma. In collaboration with colleagues at the  Brighton and Sussex Medical School (Dr Sarah Newbury’s group) we are investigating the potential role of the miRNA XRN1.

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Maternal Cigarette Smoking and Placental Function: Morphology, Oxygen Diffusive Capacity, Amino Acid and Zinc Transport, and Trace Element Content., University of Aberdeen

1 Aug 19921 Mar 1997

Award Date: 2 Nov 1997

Bachelor, Pharmacology BSc (Hons), University of Portsmouth

Sept 1989Jun 1992

Award Date: 1 Jul 1992

Keywords

  • QP Physiology

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