Aline Azabdaftari is an Oxford-BMS Fellow in the Nuffield Department of Medicine. Here she discusses her experience and aspirations for the future of her research.
What is your research background?
I am eager to understand the mechanisms leading to gut inflammation, identify potential therapeutic targets and translate them into clinical practice. Working as a paediatrician in the gastroenterological outpatient clinic, I became fascinated by inflammatory bowel disease. At the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, I studied the role of the intestinal epithelium in inflammation using organoid models. Combined with my experience as research physician in multicentric phase II and III trials, these experiences encouraged me to pursue research on the intersection between basic and clinical research.
What are you researching now?
I am investigating the role of IL-18 in intestinal inflammation in the Uhlig lab at the Translational Gastroenterology Unit with Prof Holm Uhlig, Dr Arian Laurence and Prof Paul Klenerman. My aim is to gain a mechanistical understanding of IL-18 production and regulation by using different cellular models of monogenic diseases with high levels of IL-18. These findings could identify subgroups of patients with inflammatory bowel disease benefitting from IL-18 targeting therapies.
What has your experience of this fellowship been like?
The fellowship has been great for me to develop my research expertise in a very supportive environment. Regular meetings with mentors from academia and industry provide unique opportunities for scientific discussions, while the available funding offers great flexibility and enables exploration of cutting-edge scientific methods.
What are your aspirations for the future of this research?
The therapy of inflammatory bowel disease remains a challenge due to many patients not responding to existing therapies. The development of precision medicine, where patients can be stratified into subgroups that respond to specific treatments can overcome this problem. To get there, mapping the mechanisms leading to intestinal inflammation will help to identify novel therapeutic targets. I hope that this work will contribute to this effort by identifying patient subgroups, that will benefit from more targeted treatments.