'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.