I am currently studying a pediatric cancer known as neuroblastoma. Neuroblastoma is thought to be derived from a transient cell population known as the neural crest. During development, these cells differentiate into a wide range of derivates from cells of the sympathetic nervous system to cells located within the adrenal gland. Neuroblastoma research is particularly difficult because of the inability to track or isolate human neural crest cells. This means one of the big questions in the field is pinpointing what neural crest derivative is the cell of origin in neuroblastoma. My project aims to better understand at what point during development these cells become transformed and what signalling pathways are responsible. Working with my industry partner, STEMCELL Technologies, I’m aiming to develop neural crest differentiation protocols that will allow us to recapitulate normal development. Then using these protocols with induced pluripotent stem cells that contain known neuroblastoma-associated risk alleles we can begin to understand the aberrant development associated with neuroblastoma.
I completed my BSc in Biomedical Science at Glasgow Caledonian University. My honours project was to investigate the role that cell-to-cell communication channels known as connexons play in diabetic retinopathy. It was during this project I gained an interest in pursuing research as a career. Following this, I obtained an MRes at the University of Glasgow where I investigated how a viral protein known as Epstein bar virus nuclear antigen 1 influenced a ribosomal protein that is involved in cell cycle arrest when the cell begins to over-proliferate. At this stage, I knew I wanted to continue with a career in medical research and complete a PhD.
British Society for Developmental Biology, Sheffield 2023, (Poster).