Lihui Wang is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology (Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology & Musculoskeletal Sciences). Here she discusses her project and benefits she has drawn from her experience as an Oxford-BMS Fellow.
What is your research background?
My research career transited from classic genetic models of Drosophila and mouse into medical research about 4 years ago. Throughout my research career, I have been interested in the fundamentals of immune responses under various conditions from infection to autoimmunity. At the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology (KIR), I gained experiences on working with human chronic inflammation conditions and have been concentrating on autoimmune vasculitis. I am particularly interested in how the self-tolerance is lost from the perspectives of innate immunity. At the Udalova group at the KIR in collaboration with the clinical team under Prof Luqmani at Botnar, we have discovered interesting subsets of neutrophils that may play a key role in vasculitis pathogenesis.
What are you researching now?
Currently I am working on the roles of pathological neutrophils in shaping blood vessel inflammation using bio-banked vasculitis patient tissues. The KIR has recently acquired a few advanced imaging technologies from Zeiss Airysan, light sheet to multiplex Cell Dive. I am very excited to explore these tools in the hope of finding the in vivo impact of abnormal neutrophils in the blood vessel inflammation.
What has your experience of this Fellowship been like?
The BMS/Celgene fellowship ensured the smooth progress of our research in autoimmune vasculitis and other important work I was involved in and we were able to publish our timely findings. It has been a very productive collaboration between the academia and the industry. New techniques were acquired and different ideas were explored. A deep appreciation and understanding on how the industry works, takes over and develops from the bench work is a piece of invaluable knowledge to me.
What are your aspirations for the future of this research?
The greatest aspiration for the future research is to be able to apply what we will find from the pathological neutrophils to drug development. Currently, autoimmune conditions are managed by blanket immunosuppression drugs which can have many dangerous side effects. For instance, high steroids are commonly used in stopping inflammation in vasculitis patients but they often can lead to infection, diabetes, and osteoporosis and so on. Targeting specific groups of pathological neutrophils to stop them from causing inflammation would reduce the side effects of the non-specific immunosuppression in treatment of autoimmune inflammatory disorders. If my research will lead to a real therapy, that would be the most rewarding achievement for me as a scientist.