'FROM DISCOVERY TO RECOVERY'
I have been actively researching respiratory infections and immunity in acute and chronic pulmonary diseases since 1996 when I started my PhD with a Scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service. My PhD research showed for the first time the presence of oxidative stress in children with asthma and the kinetics of oxidative stress in preterm neonates with Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) over the first days of life. As a postdoctoral fellow at UC Davis, California, I worked with with Profs. CE Cross and MG Traber (UC Davis, USA) and studied the pro-inflammatory responses during vitamin E deficiency in alpha-tocopherol transfer-protein knock out mice, showing that systemic vitamin E deficiency deranges the innate immune response, systemically and locally in the lung.
I returned to Queen's University Belfast at the end of 2003 and have since then developed my expertise in modulation of the innate immunity in chronic airway diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis, Asthma and Bronchopulmonary displasia. I have developed Raman Microscopy to image the distribution of tocopherols and phospholipids in lung tissue. In my group we currently extend this methodology to investigate novel chromanol derived compounds with anti-inflammatory activity in lung inflammation and the role of sphingolipids in airway inflammation. A current grant is investigating pathogen-host interactions in the CF airways, especially the kinetics of Toll-like Receptor expression and signalling in CF epithelium and its relation to NF-kB activation. Results indicate prolonged expression of and signalling via TLR2 and TLR4 and delayed lysosomal degradation, which is associated with persistant NF-kB activation . Additionally, the negative regulation of NF-kB activation by the RNF11/A20 complex is also deregulated, a finding that we were able to extend to epithelial cells from different chronic lung diseases and that can be associated with TGF-beta induced airway remodelling and fibrosis.I am committed to inter-disciplinary research with a major focus on translational work to imrove diagnosis or therapies for chronic airway diseases.
I am a Member of the Committee of the Ulster Immunology Group (since 2006) and was elected treasurer (2006-2009)
Reviewing manuscripts: THORAX, The British Journal of Clinical Nutrition, The Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Biology of the Neonate, The European Respiratory Journal, Free Radical Research, Paediatric Research and Paediatric Pulmonology.
Reviewing grant applications: Czech Academy of Science, Philip Morris Research Management Group USA, Research Councils UK (MRC and BBSRC) and L'Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowships.
National and International presentations
International Colloquium, "Beyond the antioxidant defense properties of antioxidants" Department of Nutrition, University of California at Davis: "Vitamin E in lung disease: can a friend become a foe? (USA, March 2004)
Annual Meeting of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology: "The Role of a-Tocopherol in Lung Inflammation - Studies using a-Tocopherol Transfer Protein null mice" (Leicester, July 2004).
University of Western Ontario: “Identification of a-tocopherol in lung tissue using Raman Microscopy“ (Canada, June 2005)
University of Perugia: “Molecular Bio-Imaging – A nutrioceutical under the microscope“ (Italy, March 2008).
Inflammation Research Centre: "Vitamin E - a pulmonary essential" (October 2003),
Cardiovascular Research Centre: "Vitamin E and Inflammation" (October 2003), and the
The Vision Sciences Research Centre: "A closer look at Vitamin E - Results from the TTP null mouse" (November 2003)
Ulster Immunology Group: "a-Tocopherol in lung disease: can a friend become a foe? (March 2005)
1996 - 1998 PhD Studentship: Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD, Germany)
1998 - 1999 Research Grant: Northern Ireland Mother and Baby Appeal (UK)
1999 Travel Grant: The UCB Institute of Allergy (Belgium)
1999 Presentation Prize: Ulster Immunology Group Annual Scientific Meeting (UK)
2002 - 2003 Research Fellowship: Philip Morris External Research (USA)
2003 Travel Grant: The Society for Free Radical Biology and Medicine (USA)
2005 Promising Researcher Fellowship (R&D Office, Northern Ireland)
2009 Innovation Leader Award (R&D Office, Northern Ireland)
2003, 2004 Visiting Professor: University of California at Davis (USA)