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One Year Research Fellowships - 2012-2013


Mr Mohammed Akhtar

 Mohammed Akhtar

Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, University of Oxford

Expanding the organ donor pool: preventing brain death induced kidney injury

‘Making un-transplantable kidney transplantable'

Over 6,500 patients are awaiting a life-saving kidney transplant in the UK. A third of these patients will either die or become too unwell to receive a transplant. The disparity between organ supply and demand is the biggest challenge facing the transplant community today.

This research will develop strategies to improve the quality of kidneys obtained from brain dead donors, the largest source of organs for transplantation worldwide. By administering therapies to the donor this will prevent kidney injury prior to organ retrieval, improving the outcome of transplantation and rescuing kidneys, which were previously considered unsuitable for transplantation.

Mr Aiman Alassar

 Aiman Alassar

Department of Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery, St George's University, London

Incidence and mechanism of cerebral ischaemia following TAVI compared to AVR

'Cerebral ischaemia following transcatheter aortic valve transplantation'

Aortic valve narrowing is a common form of heart valve disease affecting up to 10% of people over the age of 75. It is characterised by an abnormal narrowing of the aortic valve opening. It has traditionally been treated by valve replacement requiring open heart surgery. Recently, a less invasive technique referred to as Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI) has been introduced. The impact of TAVI compared to surgery on emboli (particles which may get dislodged) during the procedure and their possible effect on the brain is unknown. This study aims to compare TAVI and surgery and their effects on the brain.

Mr Stephen Ball

 Stephen Ball

Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University

Sinonasal epithelial innate immune signalling in chronic rhinosinustis

‘Understanding the mechanism for chronic sinusitis’

Chronic rhinosinusitis is one of the commonest health conditions, affecting up to 12.5% of adults, is the fifth commonest antibiotic prescription incurring over £6 billion direct health costs. Rare but serious complications include meningitis, cerebral abscess and visual loss. Maximal medical therapy (antibiotic/steroids) has high failure rates. UK statistics (HES online) revealed 60,000 hospital diagnoses with 15,000 associated sinus surgeries. Surgery offers only short-term improvements in patient quality of life and time off work. Better treatments are clearly needed. This research aims to understand the disease mechanism and identify novel topical immunological treatments.

Mr Ryan Baron

 Ryan Baron

Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford & Department of Molecular and Clinical Cancer Medicine, University of Liverpool

The role of aurora family kinases in the regulation of the cell-cycle and tumourigenesis

‘Understanding the development of cancer’

One in three people will die from cancer, with one new person diagnosed every two minutes.

It is a fundamental feature of cellular life that cells grow and divide to increase their number. To do this cells duplicate and divide their genetic material equally between daughter cells by copying, aligning then separating paired chromosomes (mitosis) before dividing between these segregated chromosomes (cytokinesis). When this process goes wrong cells end up with the wrong number of chromosomes (aneuploidy) as a result they either die or live on in an abnormal way potentially becoming a cancer.

This process is controlled by kinases that ensure the correct events occur at the right time. Understanding how kinases control cell division will provide an insight into how cancer arises and identify potential new drug targets that may be of benefit in treating cancer in the future.

Miss Julia Blackburn

 Julia Blackburn

School of Clinical Science at North Bristol, Universtiy of Bristol

Enhancing host cell responses via bio-functionalisation of orthopaedic titanium

'Improving bone cell responses to orthopaedic implants'

Over 160,000 total hip and knee replacements are performed each year in the UK for pain resulting from arthritis. With an ageing population this has been predicted to increase by 170% for hips and 600% for knees by 2030. Currently 10% of these implants will fail due to loosening at the interface of metal and bone. These require revision surgery which is expensive and has worse results for patients than initial surgery.

This research will help to reduce the rate of revision surgery through the development of ‘next generation’ implants.

Mr John Blythe

 John Blythe

Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton

The role of myotonometry in the assessment of viscoelastic properties of trapezius muscle in head and neck patients following neck dissection

'New improved care for cancer patients'

A high number of head and neck cancer patients suffer shoulder pain and limited function following surgery, impacting on quality of life. Head cancer spreading to the neck is a poor survival sign. Neck dissection surgery is considered the gold standard treatment to improve prognosis.

Neck surgery carries complications, with sixty percent of patients suffering nerve injury to a major shoulder muscle. Limited shoulder function inhibits employment, hobbies and self-care. There is no simple technique for doctors to monitor recovery. This study assesses the potential role of a safe pain-free device to measure muscle recovery and optimise patient-centre care.

Mr Marcus Cumberbatch

 Marcus Cumberbatch

Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of Sheffield

Loss of redundant mRNA export pathways in cancer cells: an investigation of this novel therapeutic target and prognostic biomarker

‘Investigating a new cancer treatment option'

Cancer is still one of the world’s biggest killers. Human cells facilitate the conversion of genes to proteins for survival. A key step is the transfer of mRNA from the cell nucleus into the cytoplasm. There are exporter proteins that aid this transport. Evidence suggests that cancer cells turn off their normal exporter proteins and may use novel exporter proteins instead. This research will investigate whether cancer cells are dependent on these for growth and whether inhibitors can prevent their use and selectively kill cancer cells. This knowledge could help diagnostic testing and treatment options.

Mr Fareed Iqbal

 Fareed Iqbal

School of Cancer Studies, University of Birmingham

Enhances surveillance for colitis associated neoplasia

‘Epigenetic behaviour of neoplasia in ulcerative colitis'

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is an inflammatory bowel disease that commonly presents in young adults. Patients with longstanding UC have an increased risk of developing bowel cancer and as a consequence undergo regular surveillance by visualisation (colonoscopy) and multiple sampling of bowel tissue (biopsies) to detect pre-cancerous changes. Unfortunately the limitations of this approach mean that some cancers remain undetected. We have shown the DNA changes in UC tumours and surrounding tissue are associated with early cancer development. This study aims to detemine whether detection of these DNA changes, at the time of Surveillance would enable us to more reliably detect pre-cancerous changes and predict which patients are more likely to develop cancer.

Mr Simon Glasgow

 Simon Glasgow

Blizard Institute, Queen Mary University of London

Dynamic systems modelling in surgery - The provision of blood for mass casualties

‘Blood planning for emergency surgery'

Systems modelling, although widely employed across commercial and business institutions to increase efficiency is underused in healthcare. Emergency surgery for victims of trauma presents one such example. In these instances, demands can rapidly exceed available resources. This is probably most evident in cases of disaster such as terrorist attacks or transportation accidents, which produce multiple severely injured patients. Bleeding is a major contributor to early death in these patients, making blood a precious but limited resource. Planning blood management using systems modelling could potentially maximise efficiency and help minimise deaths among this patient population.

Mr Michael Ho

 Michael Ho

Department of Molecular & Clincal Cancer Medicine, Liverpool

Molecular and clinical determinants of malignant progression in oral dysplasia

‘Predicting cancerous changes in the mouth'

Mouth cancer is common worldwide and increasing in the UK. Some patients have abnormal white or red patches in the mouth which are at risk of becoming cancerous. We have already noticed that non-smokers with these patches are, surprisingly at much higher risk than heavy smokers. This research project aims to identify the clinical and molecular factors that might explain and predict cancerous changes. This information will help to design studies to help choose between laser surgery, long-term review and discharge as the best and safest way to care for each patient.

Miss Marianne Johnstone

 Marianne Johnstone

Liverpool NIHR Pancreas Biomedical Research Unit

The role of alcohol and fat metabolism in chronic pancreatitis

‘Alcohol metabolism in chronic pancreatitis'

Chronic pancreatitis affects one of every 1,000 people as a result of alcohol excess, high blood fats or genetic abnormalities that cause malnutrition, chronic pain, diabetes mellitus and an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. Chronic pancreatitis is difficult to diagnose, particularly at earlier stages. We need to better identify:

  1. who is at risk
  2. early disease
  3. preventive action
  4. effective treatment
  5. who will develop cancer

With our large groups of chronic pancreatitis patients we shall use the latest technologies to more accurately predict, characterise and modify the course of chronic pancreatitis for the benefit of patients.

Mr Aadil Khan

 Aadil Khan

Institute of Cancer Research, Imperial College

Radioprotection of composite tissue free flaps using ex vivo gene therapy

‘The radioprotection of reconstructive free flaps’

After cancer resection (eg mastectomy) reconstruction is required for functional or aesthetic reasons, using a block of tissue (a free flap) from elsewhere in the body. Radiotherapy, which reduces cancer recurrence, scars and distorts free flaps requiring further surgery to correct.

The aim of this project is to protect free flaps from the harmful effects of radiotherapy using gene therapy to deliver protective genes to the tissues of the flap enabling them to withstand radiation damage. The long-term goal of this project is to allow cancer patients to have earlier free flap reconstructions that are more durable against the adverse effects of radiotherapy.

Mr Peter Kullar

 Peter Kullar

Institute of Genetic Medicine, Newcastle University

Generation of induced pluripotent stem cells from Usher type 1B patients

‘Stem cell model Usher syndrome'

Usher syndrome is an inherited condition of hearing loss, balance problems and blindness occurring in 1 person in 23,000. The aim of this research is to make a ‘disease in a dish’ model by taking patient skin cells, turning them into stem cells and then into eye and ear cells. We can then test methods to repair patient cells without having to take damaging samples. We aim to cure Usher syndrome by reimplanting these repaired cells into patients. In the long term we will use these methods to make treatments for patients suffering from other genetic hearing and vision problems.

Mr Alexander Liddle

 Alexander Liddle

Botnar Research Centre, University of Oxford

Understanding failure in unicompartmental knee arthroplasty

‘Why do partial knee replacements fail?’

Partial knee replacement is an alternative to total knee replacement (TKR) in arthritis. It replaces only the damaged parts of the knee, resulting in more normal function. It involves a shorter hospital stay and fewer complications, including death. Experimental studies show that re-operation (revision) is rare. However, in national data, the revision rate is much higher than in TKR.

We plan to perform a detailed study of nationally-collected data on over 30,000 patients with partial knee replacement. We will identify factors predisposing to revision, before conducting studies to investigate methods of improving these aspects.

Mr Nishchay Mehta

 Nishcat Mehta

University College London, Ear Institute

Is laryngeal Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori) infection associated with laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR)?

‘Could a bacterium cause throat cancer?'

Throat cancer is the 6th most common tumour accounting for 600,000 new cases each year. 5-year survival for this cancer is less than 50%. Stomach acid can reflux into the throat. This has been shown in several studies to be associated with throat cancer. This study aims to investigate the association between reflux and the presence of a bacterium know to cause stomach and gullet cancer. If the two are shown to be associated it may help to develop improved screening and prevention for this devastating cancer.

Miss Mekhola Mallik

 Mekhola Mallik

Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge

Regulatory B-cells in transplantation

‘Can regulatory B-cells prevent transplant rejection?’

Although transplantation offers patients with end-stage organ failure excellent short-term outcomes, long-term results are poorer, with almost half of all transplants failing within ten years. Approximately one quarter of the 8,000 patients on the waiting list have received at least one previous transplant; novel strategies that prevent long-term graft loss would thus represent a massive improvement in clinical transplantation.

Translating my findings in the mouse to the clinic would take several years. Nevertheless, mouse models have undoubtedly provided great insights into transplant immunology, with their relevance to human transplantation proven repeatedly. Given their potential benefit, a long term approach to assessing regulatory B cells in transplantation is valid.

Miss Nina Mistry

 Nina Mistry

University College London, Ear Institute

Using a mouse model to evaluate the effects of cochlear implantation

'Cochlear implantation in a mouse model'

Hearing loss (HL) affect nine million people in the UK. Cochlear implantation (CI) restores some hearing in the profoundly deaf. Animal models are the only means of assessing CI at a cellular and molecular level. Various mouse models exist mimicking different HL types, however, until now technology has not permitted CI in mice. Having successfully established a working mouse model of CI, mice with age-related changes and genetic defects will be investigated. Mouse models have the potential to transform CI research, expanding the pool of patients who may benefit, including those with age-related HL.

Miss Hayley Moore

 Hayley Moore

Imperial College School of Medicine, Charing Cross Hospital

Deep venous haemodynamics and development of a deep vein valve implant

‘Developing a deep vein valve replacement'

Chronic venous disease affects a third of the UK adult population and costs the NHS 2% of the annual budget. Symptoms include leg swelling, ‘bursting’ pain on walking and ulceration. Ulceration affects 0.5-1% of the population increasing to 3% in patients over 80 years.

Leg elevation and compression hosiery improve symptoms and prevent ulceration but patient compliance is poor and compression can exacerbate symptoms. Deep venous surgery is invasive and lack of evidence for its effectiveness has restricted widespread use. This novel treatment has the potential to alleviate symptoms and heal ulcers.

Miss Alia Noorani

 Alia Noorani

Department of Biomedical Engineering, St Thomas' Hospital, King's College London


An integrated approach for individualised treatment planning in aortic dissection

‘False lumen haemodynamics in aortic dissection'

Aortic dissection or a tear in the aorta is a life-threatening condition if left untreated. It is also the commonest catastrophe of the aorta affecting 3-4 per 100,000 people/year. Patients are usually 40-70 years old but can be younger, such as those with Marfan’s syndrome. Typically they experience sudden severe chest pain but may develop stroke, kidney failure or heart attacks. High blood pressure is the most important risk factor. Unfortunately survivors can still have ongoing problems with expansion of the tear leading to a worse outcome and this research aims to understand how and why this happens.


Miss Maleene Patel

The Professor Norman Williams and Ileostomy Association Fellowship


Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine, University of Leicester.  


“Diagnostic biomarkers of disease pathology and progression in ulcerative colitis” 

Ulcerative Colitis (UC) affects 1 in 500 people in the UK.  Symptoms include inflammation of the large bowel lining causing bloody diarrhea, pain, anemia often leading to hospital admission.   UC is life-long condition and affected patients have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer.  Regular colonoscopies aim to detect early precancerous lesions to reduce this risk.  However colonoscopies are expensive, ineffective and have poor attendance rates.  Our research will identify molecules in the blood to develop a non invasive surveillance blood test to monitor the early development of colorectal cancer in patients with UC.

Miss Hannah Rhodes

Hannah Rhodes

Academic Renal Unit, University of Bristol

Defining the genetics and molecular biology of cystinuria in the UK

‘Understanding cystinuria kidney stones'

Cystinuria is a cause of kidney stones that starts in childhood and persists throughout life, affecting 1:7000 people, caused by inheriting faulty genes. The stones often cause severe pain, require regular operations, with no good preventative treatments available. By understanding more about which genes are responsible for cystinuria and studying patterns of disease in the UK, we can tailor treatments and provide better information to patients about how it will affect them in the future. Developing cell lines from the urine of these patients and studying them can determine why they don’t work and discover new ways of treating them.

Miss Sushma Shankar

Sushma Shankar

Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, University of Oxford

Investigation of the role of regulatory B cells in transplantation

'Transplantation: novel therapy to improve survival'

Transplantation is the most effective, life-saving treatment for end-stage kidney, pancreas, heart and lung disease. Last year, over 20,000 lives were transformed through organ transplantation. Initial organ acceptance is achieved with powerful immunosuppressive drugs; however, long-term organ survival remains a major problem and immuno-suppressants have side effects including life-threatening infection and cancer.

Professor Kathryn Wood’s group at Oxford University has isolated an immune cell population, B regulatory cells, which may protect transplanted organs without the need for immuno-suppressants. Research to explore how these cells work could revolutionise long-term survival of transplanted organs and their recipients.

Miss Melissa Werndle

Melissa Werndale

Academic Neurosurgery Unit, St George's University of London

Injured spinal cord pressure evaluation

'Injured spinal cord pressure evaluation'

About 1,000 people annually in the UK survive a spinal cord injury wheelchair bound with no bladder or bowel control. They are primarily young men who require lifelong care. The annual cost is about £0.5-1 billion.

This research aims to develop a method to measure and optimise spinal cord pressure after injury, similar to what is done after brain injury. This may improve outcome. Potential benefits include a reduction in disability (as animal experiments show that preserving 10% of motor nerve fibres is enough to allow walking) and a reduction of the burden on NHS resources.

Mr Alexander Woollard

Alexander Woollard

Institute for Plastic Surgical Research and Education (IPSRE), The Royal Free Hospital

Understanding axonal reinnervation of motor units

'Understanding how nerves grow into muscles'

Facial palsy is cause by numerous factors, affecting all ages. Most patients recover, those that don’t are left with a permanent disability. Speech, eating and eye-closure are all affected which leads to permanent dental and eye damage, awkward social interaction and can affect development in children.

Surgical reconstruction is an option. This involves nerve and muscle transfers to restore function. Even then outcomes remain variable; why this variability remains is unclear. Our research aims to understand how nerves reform their connections to muscles. This knowledge will improve outcomes for out patients, reducing disability and improving quality of life.


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