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lifeTIME CDT Newsletter June 2021

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Dr Eric Hill, our EDI committee chair is committed to promoting equality in all activities with the CDT and aims to provide an environment free from discrimination and unfair treatment.

LifETIME have placed EDI at the heart of its activities. Below are some examples of how we deliver our commitment:

  • We offer part-time studentships, childcare support for conference attendance, flexible working for carers as well as promoting work-life balance.
  • We offer EDI funding to support applications from widening participation backgrounds and for those who require additional EDI support. We can provide additional funding of £2k p.a.
  • Our students have a voice, heard through the EDI student forum, where students have the opportunity to speak directly to the EDI committee.
  • Support for candidates invited to interview is provided with the opportunity to speak directly to a disability advisor.
  • All our staff undertake unconscious bias training, EDI training and supervisor training before supervising students.

new Review Papers

A 3D View of Colorectal Cancer Models in Predicting Therapeutic Responses and Resistance

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7827038/

Eileen Reidy (NUI Galway) discusses a recent review paper in which she is one of the named Authors:

Colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer related deaths worldwide. Although there has been many advances in therapeutics, the 5-year survival rate for some patients remains very low. In recent years, colorectal cancer has been divided into 4 consensus molecular subtypes(CMS): CMS1, CMS2, CMS3, CMS4. CMS4 is associated with high stromal infiltration, increased angiogenesis and an inflamed tumour promoting immune phenotype (Guinney et al., 2015). Patients with CMS4 have the worst overall survival rates.

In the past, research has focused on 2D and in-vivo models. However, translation from these in vivo models to the clinic is sub-optimal in many cases. More recent studies are turning towards developing effective 3D models of colorectal cancer that are clinically relevant and that can recapitulate the tumour microenvironment in vitro. This work aims to bridge the gap between 2D cultures and in vivo studies, with a focus on reducing the use of animal models in the future.

This review focused on describing the advantages and disadvantages of the different 3D models of colorectal cancer and how these models can be optimised to study cellular and molecular interactions taking place in the tumour microenvironment. Understanding these complex interactions could lead to the development of more effective translatable treatment options for patients.

My PhD is based on developing a 3D model of colorectal cancer. We will incorporate stromal cells, an important component of CMS4 colorectal tumours, with colon cancer cells and assess the impact of these cell-cell interactions on immune cells in the tumour microenvironment. In researching the literature for this review, I have gained unique insight into the knowledge gaps in this field. I am looking forward to using this knowledge to develop an optimal 3D colorectal cancer model and to further our understanding of cell-cell interactions in the colorectal tumour microenvironment that shape immune responses. This research aims to develop sensitive 3D in vitro models that enhance the successful translational of therapeutics to clinical application.

Toward Developing Immunocompetent Diabetic Foot Ulcer-on-a-Chip Models for Drug Testing

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/ten.tec.2020.0331

Mirella Ejiugow (NUI Galway) discusses a recent review paper in which she is one of the named Authors:

Simple, yet complex and relevant enough: modelling diabetic foot ulcer using microfluidics:

Animal- and in vitro-based models for modelling diabetic foot ulcer (DFU) have undoubtedly contributed to our body of knowledge of wound healing. However, majority of therapies found to be effective with these systems are not successful when tested in humans. Therefore, a physiologically relevant DFU model that could accurately predict effectiveness of therapies for human use is needed.

Organ-on-a-chip(OoC) technology offers the desired microenvironment, amongst other benefits, to model and study tissue function. In my recently published paper, “Toward Developing Immunocompetent Diabetic Foot Ulcer-on-a-Chip Models for Drug Testing”, ideas that collectively facilitate using OoC to model DFU were discussed.

In this paper, recapitulating the immunological profile of DFU was emphasized – by including macrophages derived from individuals with DFU. Macrophages have gained unprecedented and convincing attention in their dysfunction leading to poor healing outcomes in individuals with DFU. Simply put, without proper immune response, wound healing cannot take place.

Another suggestion, equally important, was recreating the three-dimensional “diseased” microenvironment of DFU; stimulating extracellular matrix(ECM)-producing cells from individuals with DFU will get the job done.

My lifETIME CDT project will apply these considerations and more in developing for the first time a physiologically relevant immunocompetent DFU model on a chip, useful for both pathophysiological studies and drug testing.

Created with BioRender

IN2SCIENCEUK MENTORSHIP

Abigail Wright (University of Birmingham) has a fantastic opportunity to mentor this summer with In2scienceUK.

The project is aimed at helping students from disadvantaged backgrounds to get experience in STEM fields. This involves 2x45 minute mentoring sessions, and a one day placement at the lab (COVID permitting). The non-profit organisation has been helping students since 2010 and their main aim is to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds get access into STEM subjects, and promote diversity within the fields.

Abigail Wright

INSTITUTE OF INFECTION, IMMUNITY AND INFLAMMATION ONLINE POSTER EVENT

The first University of Glasgow iii online poster day took place last month with each participant delivering a five-minute poster presentation. The audience (supervisors, fellow students and members of the iii community) assessed the participants.

Congratulation to second year student Maria-Laura Vieri (University of Glasgow) who was the immunology 1st prize winner.

Maria-Laura's PhD project is: Reprogramming of induced pluripotent stem cells to 3D model bone and cartilage formation

Maria-Laura Vieri

Student Placement

Sphere Fluidics

Antonia Molloy (Aston University) has just returned from a two week placement at our stakeholder partners Sphere Fluidics. Antonia talks about her experience below:

In May I had the opportunity to visit my industry partner Sphere Fluidics who are based at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge. I will be using the companies developed technology during my PhD project. During my time there, I was trained on microfluidic chip fabrication and their three picodroplet instruments. I was able to take some samples of bacteria and run preliminary experiments. It was a great experience to venture into industry and visit another city!

Cambridge

SUSTAINABILITY

Laboratory work has a significant impact on the environment, ranging from plastic waste and lack of recycling to energy consumption. Due to our CDT having students who occupy so many labs across the partner universities, we have made it our mission to reduce our carbon footprint by starting a sustainable labs working group.

Our goal is to make the CDT more sustainable, both at work and at home. Not only we will try to raise awareness on the climate change topic, but also help the cohorts into switching to more sustainable habits.

Maria-Laura Vieri and Seb Doherty-Boyd are the student reps who are leading our sustainability group and tell us about their personal connections to climate change:

Sustainability Student Reps
MARIA-LAURA "THE REASON WHY I DECIDED TO BECOME THE SUSTAINABILITY REP FOR MY COHORT IS BECAUSE I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN VERY SENSIBLE TO THE SUSTAINABILITY TOPIC. THE CLIMATE CHANGE THREAT IS REAL, AND I WANTED TO DO SOMETHING MORE THAN JUST HAVING A SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE. I FELT THIS WAS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO RAISE AWARENESS AND MOTIVATE OTHERS AS WELL."
SEB - "I HAVE BEEN INTERESTED IN REDUCING MY OWN CARBON FOOTPRINT SINCE I WAS A CHILD AND HAVE RECENTLY BECOME MORE AWARE OF THE EXISTENTIAL THREAT GLOBAL WARMING POSES THANKS TO INCREASED MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE TOPIC."

Future Leaders in Regenerative Medicine: Joint CDT and UKSB Conference

Six EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training across the UK regenerative medicine field and the UK Society for Biomaterials will come together online to showcase their research via Zoom on 15th – 17th June 2021:

Keynote speakers include:

The conference will break out into six themes across three days. During each session there will be presentations from later year CDT students within the field and poster and flash talks from early year students. The programme will allow time for poster discussions and networking in gather.town.

Register here to attend.

#futureleadersinregenmed

Twitter conference

#futureleadersinregenmed

Thursday 10th – Friday 11th June 2021

The LifETIME Twitter Conference is an online event held entirely over Twitter using the hashtag #futureleadersinregenmed to bring together the LifETIME CDT cohort and the wider scientific community to share research, engage in scientific discussions and network.

The 2019 LifETIME students will be asked to present 3 tweet during the two day event.

To join the discussion please search for the hashtag #futureleadersinregenmed to see all posts that are related to the conference.

2021 Cohort

The UK CDT interviews took place in March and we are delighted to announce that we have recruited our full intake for 2021.

We have recruited 18 students across the University of Glasgow, University of Birmingham, Aston University and CURAM.

You will get the opportunity to meet our new 2021 student cohort in the next edition of the newsletter.