Wellcome Trust PhD Student Cohort 2016
Academic and Work Experience Prior to Sept 2016 Programme Start: I obtained a MSci in Biochemistry (with Immunology) from University of Aberdeen with a year in industry at GlaxoSmithKline, Stevenage, UK. As part of an Aberdeen university team, I participated in the international Genetically Engineered Machine Competition at MIT, USA, where scientists across the world present innovative projects to address worldwide problems through synthetic biology. Our project aimed to develop an E. coli-based system to detect infections with the Trypanosoma parasite for people living in underprivileged rural places in Africa.
PhD Programme – Year 1 – MRes and Project Rotations: During my first year here in the Wellcome Trust ‘Cell Therapies and Regenerative Medicine’ Four-Year PhD Programme, I tried different areas of research and learned new techniques to examine: (1) the role of extracellular matrix niche factors on culturing primary human foetal hepatocytes with Dr Tamir Rashid; (2) regulatory T cells in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and whether specific biomarkers can be associated with disease severity with Dr Giovanna Lombardi and Dr Cristinao Scotta; (3) regulators of one of the main pancreatic transcription factors, with the aim to find novel ways to generate stable and functional pancreatic organoids with Dr Rocio Sancho. Overall, I learnt how to work with very distinct cell lines, flow cytometry, functional assays, high-content imaging and new bioinformatic tools. The experience taught me that I want to combine bioinformatics with laboratory-based work during my PhD project.
PhD Programme – Years 2 to 4 – Doctoral Studies: My thesis work will focus on diabetes with supervisor Dr Rocio Sancho. Diabetes is characterised by the body's inability to regulate blood glucose. Pancreatic β-cells regulate glucose through insulin release. Monogenic Diabetes is a rare type of diabetes caused by gene mutations that make β-cells dysfunctional. During my thesis work, I will be using induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) derived from patients with Monogenic Diabetes banked through the Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Initiative (HipSci). The effect of the mutations will be investigated during pancreas development. The mechanism of action of the mutants will be investigated in vitro and in vivo. Through further understanding of the heterogeneity of Monogenic Diabetes phenotypes, this project aims to reveal more accurate detection targets and opportunities for personalised treatment.
Ana-Maria Cujba ORCID webpage