I am a postgraduate researcher working with Professor Muzlifah Haniffa and Dr Gary Reynolds at Newcastle University, trying to uncover the formation mechanism of cells called Langhans-type multinucleated giant cells, and the role that they play in the pathogenesis of giant cell arteritis, an age-related vasculitis. I previously studied BSc Neuroscience at the University of Nottingham, and completed an MRes in Biosciences at Newcastle University.
Our research focuses on giant cell arteritis (GCA), which is the most common form of vasculitis in adults and almost exclusively presents people over the age of 50. We are specifically studying Langhans-type multinucleated giant cells (LMGCs), a rare cell type which only appears in a number of seemingly disparate diseases including GCA. Very little is known about these cells, so we aim to uncover the mechanism of their formation, and their functional adaptations, which may provide insight into the pathogenesis of GCA, and help us to improve diagnostic techniques and treatment strategies in future. This video [1:16], created by Daniel Maunder, outlines his research topic and goals.
April 2019 – BSR Annual Conference: poster presentation.
September 2019 – Northern and Yorkshire Rheumatology Meeting: oral presentation.
September 2019 – TARGET Scientific Meeting: oral presentation.
November 2019 – North East Postgraduate Conference: abstract accepted for oral presentation.
December 2019 – BSI Congress 2019: abstract accepted for poster presentation.
October 2019, Decoding human fetal liver haematopoiesis, Nature, Vol. 574, pages 365-371, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1652-y, M.A.Haniffa.
After graduating with a BSc in Neuroscience from the University of Nottingham I considered a career as a laboratory technician, as I really enjoyed hands-on wet lab work. I took on an extended period of technical work experience with Professor Rajat Singh at the Campus for Ageing and Vitality in Newcastle, sparking my interest in age-related conditions. Following this, I decided to pursue further research training and applied to study an MRes in Biosciences at Newcastle University. During this MRes I developed a strong interest in immunology, and was very lucky to secure a research project with Professor Muzlifah Haniffa and Dr Gary Reynolds in the Institute of Cellular Medicine, which satisfied my interests in both ageing and immunology. I was invited to continue this work by taking on a 3 year PhD with the Haniffa lab and the NIHR Newcastle BRC.
My research focuses on vasculitis, specifically giant cell arteritis, the most common form of vasculitis in adults. It is important to improve our understanding of this condition as the current mainstay of treatment, high dose steroids, come with a number of severe side effects which are particularly unpleasant for older people.
Being part of the NIHR Newcastle BRC team along with the other trainees has provided a very supportive environment for me to develop as a researcher. It feels exciting to be part of a community translationally researching a breadth of conditions, which can make a real difference to people’s lives.
Yes, it has been useful to hear from and talk to researchers working across different themes, and to think about how their experimental approaches may be useful for my own research.
The lay summary competition was a particular highlight for me, I enjoyed meeting members of the public and chatting about my research with them. I really came away with a renewed sense of pride in my work.
It’s easy to forget that you’re not supposed to be the finished article as a PhD student. The time is as much for developing skills and growing as a researcher as it is for actually carrying out the research. It’s down to you to make sure that you gain the skills that you want to during your PhD, so go looking for opportunities, and say yes to things!
You’re never too far away from a Greggs.