Blog

Only showing posts tagged with 'PhD' Show all blog posts

Searching for a cure: Hunter syndrome and gene therapy

by YPU Admin on October 24, 2016, Comments. Tags: Gene Therapy, Health, Hunter Syndrome, medicine, PhD, Research, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Helene Gleitz and I am a 2nd year PhD student in Medicine. After getting my international baccalaureate in Switzerland, I studied Biomedical Materials Science in Manchester and graduated in 2013. I then applied for a research master’s degree (MRes) in Tissue Engineering for Regenerative Medicine, where I spent 8 months working in a gene therapy lab. In fact, I enjoyed my master’s project so much that I applied for a PhD in the same lab to study gene therapy.

My PhD investigates a rare paediatric genetic disease called mucopolysaccharidosis type II, or Hunter syndrome, that occurs almost exclusively in males. I am looking to develop a gene therapy through the use of haematopoietic stem cells, which are cells involved in the immune and blood systems.


In Depth

Hunter syndrome is caused by mutations in the IDS gene present on the X-chromosome and different mutations affect the severity of the disease. Mutations in the IDS gene affect the IDS enzyme, which is involved in the degradation of complex sugars called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). When degradation and recycling of large molecules are altered, complex sugars accumulate in every organ in the body and things start to go haywire.

In the most severe form, young children show signs of neurodegeneration, behavioural problems and cardiorespiratory complications amongst many other symptoms. Lifespan is also significantly reduced, with most patients dying in teenage years. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for the severe form and replacing the missing enzyme (known as enzyme replacement therapy) has no impact on the brain.

The goal of my PhD is to design a therapy that will replace the missing enzyme through a single procedure and provide a long-term cure for the brain. We currently do this by modifying the patient’s own haematopoietic stem cells, which are the cells that differentiate into your blood and immune systems. Haematopoietic stem cells are extracted from the patient’s bone marrow, modified in the lab and re-infused into the patients. This process is known as a bone marrow transplant. 



During the first year of my PhD, I developed a lentiviral vector, which is a therapeutic virus derived from HIV-1, to carry the correct ‘version’ of the IDS gene. The lentivirus can be added to the haematopoietic stem cells in the lab, where the virus integrates into the genome and delivers the correct gene. This method allows haematopoietic stem cells to produce the right enzyme.

By correcting the cells and infusing them back into patients, we expect blood cells to be able to reduce the amount of complex sugar molecules that are stored throughout the body. Most importantly, we know that certain blood cells called monocytes can cross into the brain and have an impact there.

The rest of my PhD will involve evaluating this therapy in the mouse model of severe Hunter, where I analyse enzyme levels in the brain, sugar accumulation, neurodegeneration and behaviour 6 months after the transplant. Ultimately, we are hoping to put this through to clinical trials and get the therapy to Hunter patients as quickly as possible!

Going Further

If you’d like to know more about our research lab and the work that we do, visit our page: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/research/brian.bigger/research

If you are keen to know more about gene therapy in general, visit: http://www.bsgct.org/ or http://www.asgct.org/

For updates on MPS disorders in the UK, please visit: http://www.mpssociety.org.uk/en/

 

People are the Ultimate Assets

by YPU Admin on August 18, 2016, Comments. Tags: Humanities, Human Resource Management, PhD, Research, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Ning Kang and I am currently a first year PhD student in Development Policy and Management with the Global Development Institute (GDI), which was officially launched not long ago. But actually, this institute is not new. It united the strengths of the Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM) and the Brooks World Poverty Institute (BWPI). I was originally from IDPM, where I finished my master degree in 2013-2014.

It was actually quite interesting that I almost slipped with Manchester three years ago when I firstly got the offer for my Masters degree. I applied for the Human Resource Management programme without realising there were two similar programmes, one was with MBS (Manchester Business School), and the other was with IDPM. So when I realised that my offer was with IDPM instead of MBS, I actually thought about giving up the offer as I wanted to go to MBS. But fortunately, I didn’t refuse the offer and still came eventually. And the moment I started my study, I fell in love with my school. The lecturers have various backgrounds in terms of nationalities and research interests, which make the whole study environment diverse and interesting. They are also caring, encouraging and inspiring, which became part of the reasons for me coming back for my PhD. Now, I am enjoying my PhD life with colleagues coming from more than 12 different countries!

In Depth

I did have a chance to choose another university or even another country to do a PhD, but I chose to stay with IDPM (which is GDI now) as I found organizations in developing countries are worth studying; their HRM is also a fascinating topic owing to its immaturity. Being a Chinese, I have witnessed the changes happening every day. It is not only about the changes of the whole environment, but also about people. As people are considered as the ultimate assets, how to manage them properly has becoming challenging, hereby HRM has become more and more significant.

When HRM was first introduced in the 20th century, it was considered as a comprehensive and coherent approach for better management and development of people in the workplace. Early in the development of HR field the emphasis was often focused on ensuring that employees had the ability and motivation to accomplish certain work allocated by the organization. However, to meet challenges, researchers and practitioners alike have begun to explore the linkages between HRM and strategic management, hereby strategic human resource management (SHRM) is labelled. With the introduction of SHRM, the focus of HR has shifted from simply managing people and allocating jobs towards exploring how human resource can contribute to organization’s goals by utilising their strategic capabilities.

In recognition of its significance, innovation with regard to HRM is currently happening in many places and more recently in China. The open-up policy in China allows knowledge emanating from outside the country to be embraced, which allows innovation and implementation of SHRM gradually taking place within the country. Also, having increasing involvement with international business since the entrance of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the past few decades have not only seen Chinese attracting foreign direct investment into the country, but also have witnessed Chinese multi-national enterprises (MNEs) expansion to overseas owing to the “going out” (Zouchuqu) policy. My study aims at exploring the opportunities and challenges generated by Chinese policy and culture to Chinese MNEs. The examination will be conducted both in the head office in China and the subsidiaries abroad. Hopefully through this study, there can be a better understanding for Chinese MNEs regarding HRM when they expanding to other countries. Meanwhile, it may also be interesting and helpful for other organizations which share similarities with Chinese MNEs.

 

Into Deep-sea Pipelines and Material Science

by YPU Admin on August 4, 2016, Comments. Tags: material science, PhD, Research, and UoM

Introduction

Hi! My name is Melissa and I’m currently in the second year of my PhD at the University of Manchester. I am in the School of Materials, and my research focusses on the corrosion of nickel-alloys that are used in deep-sea oil pipelines.

I didn’t expect to end up doing a PhD, but this is where my journey has taken me.

How I got here

Going into college, I had not a clue what I wanted to do, so for my A-levels I picked to do Maths, Science and English, and randomly picking Chemistry as my science as I thought it has the most potential to be interesting.  And it certainly turned out to be true! I absolutely loved chemistry and decided to carry on studying it at University.

So I did a 4 year integrated Master’s degree in chemistry at the University of Manchester. I learnt so much, not only about Chemistry but about myself as well. It had ignited my passion for science, and that passion is something I want to share with as many people as I can, so I do lots and lots of outreach activities.

As my degree came to an end, I knew another decision was looming; what was I going to do next? I knew I wanted to carry on learning, so decided a PhD would be my best opportunity. I was overwhelmed with the variety of PhDs that were available to me. Everything from how bubbles work to building new telescopes to look at the planets.

Whilst doing my research in to what I wanted to go into for my PhD, I came across the Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Metallic Systems. This programme was designed to take anyone from any STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subject and give them a year’s training in Materials Science for them to then pick a PhD project from a selection offered. Well perfect, I thought! This was a chance to learn about a brand new subject, and then do a PhD as well. So this is what I did, and here I am now! And I found the perfect PhD project for me. It perfectly marries what I had learnt in my Chemistry degree, with my new knowledge of Materials Science.

In Depth

So why is the corrosion of Nickel-alloys so important? Corrosion costs the oil and gas industry about $1372 billion every year – so a pretty expensive problem. And these Ni-alloys are used as nuts and bolts in what we call a well-head, and it’s the well-head’s job to maintain the pressure in the pipeline. Herein lies the problem; these pipelines can be up to 5000m below sea level. Therefore it’s really important to understand how and when these alloys are likely to corrode, so we can better predict their lifetimes, and prevent any failures in the pipeline.

Going Further

When I started this journey, way back on GCSE results day, I didn’t know where I would end up, and I still don’t. I’m just doing what makes me happy and enjoying the ride!

If you want to find out more about the Corrosion research at Manchester you can do so here.

The EPS Outreach Website has lots of details on the different types of work we do with schools and the general public.

And if you would like to know more about what Materials Science is, Strange Matter is a great website.


 

Money Money Money: How do banks do it?

by YPU Admin on March 31, 2016, Comments. Tags: Banking, finance, Humanities, Law, Money, PhD, Research, and UoM

Introduction

Hi, my name is Max and I am a PhD student at the University of Manchester School of Law. I have been a university student for the past 6 years now and I have really enjoyed my experience. University provides you with the opportunity of learning new things, meeting new people, experiencing a new environment, and finding what it is you want to do in life. For me, particularly the last question has always been difficult: it took me a long time to realise what I wanted to do in life, but pursuing a masters degree after my undergraduate degree gave me an idea. I decided to do research in financial services regulation. I will give you an idea of what this entails. It’s all about money.



In Depth

Financial services significantly affect all members of society. You all use money to pay for different things, such as clothes, shoes, sweets, books etc. If it wasn’t for the financial services industry, money wouldn’t be readily available in the form that we use it today. Let me give you an example:

I imagine that some of you have bank accounts in which you can place your money. You can save money in your bank account and later withdraw it if you decide to spend it. This is referred to as a ‘deposit’, as you deposit your money in your bank account. Your bank can then use this money to create loans to give out to different people. A loan is simply an agreement between a bank and an individual or a company. The bank gives the individual a sum of money and the individual agrees to pay the money back over a certain period of time. For the bank to benefit from this transaction, the individual is required to pay an additional sum of money over the time period. It is up to the individual to decide what to do with the money they receive. They can spend it on clothes, shoes, sweets, books, or something substantially bigger like a car or a house. This bank, therefore, made money readily available to the individual. The money that you deposited is also still available to you. You can withdraw it at any time. All banks put together make up the financial services industry. They are an important part of the money available to us. They significantly influence how money is readily available to all members of society.


This seems like a good thing doesn’t it? Sadly, however, this system comes with its problems. Consider this: what if the individual is unable to repay their loan within the time period agreed upon? What if the bank gives out so many loans that there is no money left for you to withdraw when you want to? How does the bank decide who is suitable to receive a loan? Does the bank use any other means to finance its loans? All of these questions are addressed in financial services regulation. Research in this area essentially tries to make the financial services industry reliable and stable so that money is as readily available as described above. Many of the issues get very complex. It can be very difficult for researchers to keep up with everything that happens in the financial services industry. This is precisely why I believe this to be an interesting research area. New developments arise constantly that require addressing. Different researchers come up with different ways of addressing these issues. I have found myself able to add my own thoughts to this interesting area. It is a very rewarding experience.

Going further

Here is a YouTube link to an interesting explanation of banking – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqD3hnjZBTM


 

The Brain in Pain

by YPU Admin on March 17, 2016, Comments. Tags: brain, Chronic Pain, Medic, Nerves, pain, PhD, Research, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Javin Sandhu. I am currently a medical student intercalating between years 4 and 5 of medical school to perform an MRes in Medical Sciences. This MRes course provides you with an opportunity to take on a research project that grabs your interest with a supportive supervisor who guides you through the process.

I was fortunate to do my research project in the processing of pain in the brain thereby combining my two core interests: neurology (study of the nervous system) and anaesthetics (drugs that work on the nervous system to put people to sleep). In addition, I have been fortunate to receive the John Snow for Anaesthetic Research funded by the BJA/RCoA to help support me during the master’s degree (please see http://www.niaa.org.uk/article.php?newsid=1454). 

In Depth…

When we experience pain, certain regions of the brain are activated. All these regions make up a “pain matrix”.  The pain matrix is divided into areas which process the location of pain and the emotional effect of that pain. Chronic pain and acute pain activate the same regions of the pain matrix but to different extents. These differences suggest that we should be aiming to develop ways of imaging ongoing clinical pain. Previous research from the Human Pain Research Group (see below for link), has shown success for treatment approaches such as meditation and placebo. This previous research has also shown an increase in a certain pattern of brain activity (known as alpha activity). There are various methods on how to image the brain’s functions. These approaches depend on how the brain uses oxygen (showing brain activity) or the electrical activity of the brain (which shows which brain cells are transferring information).

What do I investigate?

My research is based upon trying to find a unique pattern of brain activity for chronic pain by measuring the brain’s electrical activity in patients with chronic pain caused by rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.  I will be using EEG to pick up the brain’s electrical activity and analysing this data to figure out which areas of the brain are activated. We hope to find a unique pattern of brain activity which can be used in the future to test patients with chronic pain. This would help figure out how much pain these patients are in and to prevent patients which are addicted to painkillers “faking their chronic pain”.

Going Further…

You can visit this website for more information about The Human Pain Research Group -(http://www.bbmh.manchester.ac.uk/research/ccn/pain/)

For more information about the MRes Medical Sciences course, please see -(http://www.mhs.manchester.ac.uk/study/masters/courses/medical-sciences-mres/)

Also if you want more information about pain, please see - (http://www.iasp-pain.org/)

Finally, for a brief introduction into brain imaging techniques, please see -(http://www.bbmh.manchester.ac.uk/research/ccn/pain/Research/brainimaging/)