Xin Zhou is an Oxford-BMS Fellow in Department of Computer Science. Here she discusses her experience and aspirations for the future of her research.
What is your research background?
I obtained my BSc and MSc degrees in biotechnology and cell biology, and my DPhil degree in computational cardiovascular science. During my path in research, I learnt the complexity in biological systems, and became especially passionate about using modelling and simulations to investigate the possible causes and mechanisms of cardiac diseases. I have experiences in multi-scale modelling of cardiac electrophysiology for acquired and congenital disease conditions, as well as in silico evaluation of the proarrhythmic risk of drug therapies. I am currently working with Professor Blanca Rodriguez and the Computational Cardiovascular Science team at the Department of Computer Science.
What are you researching now?
The project I currently work on aims to identify novel drug targets for heart failure treatment. Chronic heart failure is one of the most common causes of hospitalization worldwide, and its 5-year mortality rate rivals most types of cancer. In addition to reduced contractility, failing hearts also often suffer from arrhythmic risk caused by electrophysiological remodelling. Therefore, this project aims to conduct advanced computer modelling and simulation studies to identify promising new drug targets that can improve the contractility of failing cardiomyocytes without increasing arrhythmic risk.
What has your experience of this Fellowship been like?
I started the fellowship in 2021 and my experience has been very positive. My BMS mentors are very knowledgeable, and have been very supportive and approachable from the start, and our scientific discussions are always driven by the state-of-the-art knowledges in the field. I believe this fellowship gives me valuable chances in gaining exposure to drug discovery and development.
What are your aspirations for the future of this research?
Current pharmacological therapies of heart failure work through vasodilation and diuretics to relieve the symptoms of patients, while the maladaptive remodellings observed in cardiomyocytes are not targeted. I hope my work can contribute to the development of novel therapies for improved heart failure treatment. In addition, this research aims to establish an in silico evaluation platform for the prediction and assessment of drug safety and efficacy for the treatment of heart failure, which can also be used to stratify the off-target cardiotoxicity risk caused by other disease therapies.