Name: Nichola Ejaz
Research Theme: Experimental Orthopaedics
Research Title: The Effect of Osteoporosis on Bone Cell Response to Strontium
Research Interests: In-vitro cell culture, high throughput screening, drug screening, pharmacology, molecular biology, bone remodeling, phytochemicals, apitherapy, cancer and rare disease.
Supervisors: Dr. Susan Clarke and Professor. Fraser Buchanan.
This project will investigate methods of fracture fixation where the fracture etiology is osteoporosis. Fracture fixation devices designed specifically for the osteoporotic generation are needed as alternatives to metallic devices. Bioresorbable and biodegradable polymers can achieve high performance and biocompatibility in medical devices and may present a suitable alternative. Combined with an anti-osteoporotic and dual acting bone agent (DABA) drug called Strontium, it may be further possible to promote bone formation and reduce bone resorption.
The aim of this project is to develop a novel device by incorporating Strontium into a bioresorbable polymer. This polymer will be treated to ensure controlled release of Strontium which is proposed to increase bone formation and osteogenic gene expression. In order to identify the therapeutic ranges and appropriate concentrations of Strontium required, I will complete in-vitro studies using bone marrow derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) derived from “healthy” and osteoporotic donors.
Study Aim: Inform the design of a Strontium-doped bioresorbable fracture fixation device.
The study will meet the following objectives:
- The cell response to known amounts of Strontium in order to identify target therapeutic range.
- The cell response to conditioned medium from cell-free degradation studies of both polymer degradation products and released Strontium. This will determine any potentiation or attenuation of the response to Strontium by the polymer products.
- The response of cells from normal donors compared to osteoporotic donors with and without exposure to bisphosphonates, determining any changes in response. A co-culture assay will further investigate cross-talk between osteoblast and osteoclast cells.
After training as a GPhC registered hospital pharmacy technician, I completed my BSc (Hons) in Pharmacology with the University of East London. I then completed a MSc in Biotechnology Research with Ulster University prior to beginning my PhD with Queens University Belfast.
My tertiary education developed a strong passion for research and in-vitro experimental analysis. My passion for research further stems from my research interests in rare disease where I am the chairperson for the charity Dancing Eye Syndrome Support Trust. I love how good research can directly impact the quality of care given to a patient and their families.
My Perfect PhD Day
When experiments get great results.
When I’m not PhDing…
I am a mummy to my beautiful daughter, 2 dogs and a rabbit. I enjoy keeping active by swimming, stand-up paddleboarding, hula hooping, hiking and aerial fitness (with QUB aerial fitness society). I am also learning how to be a beekeeper and currently enrolled on the preliminary beekeeping course with CAFRE.