Nan Yang is an Oxford-BMS Fellow in the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology & Musculoskeletal Sciences. She discusses her project and benefits she has drawn from this experience.
What is your research background?
My first experience of research was during my MD degree in which I studied glucocorticoid sensitivity. Here, we discovered glucocorticoid sensitivity follows a 24-hour circadian rhythm and is regulated by circulating cholesterol and tissue hypoxia. After this, during my postdoc in Manchester I investigated the circadian regulation of cartilage and mammary gland homeostasis. Through this work we identified a functional clock in cartilage homeostasis whose disruption ultimately results in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Furthermore, over this period we were the first group to identify a mammary clock, regulated by tissue mechanics, that plays a central role in breast cancer.
What are you researching now?
My current research has a strong translational focus and aims to define novel therapeutic targets and cellular biomarkers in human fibrosis. We have recently showed that inhibition of epigenetic modulating methyltransferases inhibits formation of the pro-fibrotic myofibroblast phenotype. In addition, we have characterized the transcriptomic and proteomic signature of fibrotic vasculature using single-cell RNA-seq and CyTOF, elucidating novel cell subsets and central intercellular signalling networks. Moving forward, we are undertaking multi-omics single-cell profiling of human liver fibrosis to dissect heterogeneity in this common and devastating condition.
What has your experience of this Fellowship been like?
The BMS-Oxford fellowship has been an excellent opportunity to develop my research skills in an environment that fostered close integration of academia and industry. This unique perspective has empowered the strong translational focus of my research and provided a fruitful platform to build, discuss and interrogated meaningful biological questions that ultimately aim to improve the life of patients suffering with fibrosis. Working closely with my BMS mentor Glenda Trujillo, I have felt part of the BMS community and this has enabled my project to progress quickly and generate high quality data.
What are your aspirations for the future of this research?
We are determined to identify desperately needed novel disease biomarkers and therapeutic targets in fibrosis. Indeed, currently around a quarter of adult population worldwide suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and liver disease is the major cause of death in the early middle age population (35-49 years old). In addition, liver cirrhosis causes ~2 million deaths annually. These statistics demonstrate the urgent need to deliver efficient treatment for liver fibrosis, and we are keen to contribute and to move this field forward.