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The Science our Women in STEMM create

King's is holding the first Women in STEMM Season - a month-long celebration of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine. It takes place between the the UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February and International Women’s Day on 8 March. Find out about some of the activities the students and staff in the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences are up to during the Women in STEMM Season.

Find out more about some of the papers that have been published recently by our Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences' Women in STEMM. In all cases, the lead author is a female researcher and the last author is also females, showcasing both the up and coming female researchers and the established scientists whose labs they work in. 


EGFR overexpression increases radiotherapy response in HPV-positive head and neck cancer through inhibition of DNA damage repair and HPV E6 downregulation.

Professor Mahvash Tavassoli - Professor of Molecular Oncology & PhD student Elham Alsahafi

Our research identified the molecular causes of inferior therapeutic respond of patients with human papilloma virus (HPV) induced head and neck cancer (HNC) to an FDA approved targeted therapy Cetuximab. We identified novel pathways in HPV- induced HNCs which were different to the subtype caused by tobacco. The findings had an important impact on selecting the suitable treatment modality based on HNC subtypes.


Bi-directional signaling between the intestinal epithelium and type-3 innate lymphoid cells regulates secretory dynamics and interleukin-22

Dr Joana Neves - Senior Lecturer in Mucosal Immunology & Emily Read, PhD student

In this study, we investigated the intricate communication between Type-3 innate lymphoid cells (ILC3), a type of white blood cell, and the intestinal epithelium, focusing on how they jointly regulate the balance and function of the intestine. Understanding this interaction is crucial for unraveling the complexities of intestinal homeostasis and immune responses. To overcome the challenges posed by the intricate mucosal tissues, we employed a co-culture system using small intestinal organoids (mini-guts) and ILC3.

Our findings reveal a mutual influence between ILC3 and intestinal epithelial cells, leading to significant changes in gene expression. Specifically, ILC3 trigger a global transcriptional shift in intestinal epithelial cells, favoring the development of secretory goblet cells. Goblet cells produce mucus that forms a barrier between our cells and the bacteria that live in our gut. Conversely, organoids enriched with goblet cells enhance the activity of a specific ILC3 subset and stimulate the production of interleukin (IL)-22, a cytokine important to promote regeneration of the intestinal epithelium and the production of anti-microbial peptides.

In summary, our research uncovers two intertwined signaling pathways between the intestinal epithelium and ILC3, shedding light on their collaborative role in maintaining intestinal balance which may lead to the development of new therapeutical approaches to treat intestinal diseases.


Wnt signalling from Gli1 expressing apical stem/progenitor cells is essential for the coordination of tooth root development. 

PhD student Rupali Lav and Professor Abigail Tucker, Dean for Research

In this paper, the signals that control the tooth root development were investigated by PhD student Rupali Lav. The paper highlighted the pathways essential for regulating a stem cell compartment in the forming root, where loss of these signals led to the formation of rootless teeth in mice. Interestingly, we found that these pathways were conserved in other stem cell compartments in the body, such as in the gut. Conserved mechanisms therefore control stem cells populations in diverse tissues.


Sox8 remodels the cranial ectoderm to generate the ear

Research Associate Dr Ailin Buzzi, A and Professor Andrea Streit, Head of Centre for Craniofacial & Regenerative Biology

The ear is a complex sense organ that detects sound and balance. Using a multidisciplinary approach this study identifies the transcription factor Sox8 as a ‘master regulator’ of ear formation: it reprogrammes non-ear cells into ears by activating the genetic ear programme, inducing morphological changes as observed in normal development and initiating neurogenesis. This not only explains the earliest steps of ear formation, but also informs the development of regenerative and reprogramming strategies.

The paper won the Cozzarelli Prize in 2022; given to the best paper in its category by PNAS.


In this story

Mahvash  Tavassoli

Mahvash Tavassoli

Professor of Molecular Oncology

Joana Neves

Joana Neves

Senior Lecturer in Mucosal Immunology and Group Leader

Abigail  Tucker

Abigail Tucker

Dean for Research

Rupali Lav

Rupali Lav

PhD Student

Ailin Leticia Buzzi

Ailin Leticia Buzzi

Research Associate

Women in STEMM Season

A month-long celebration of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.

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