MRC Festival

The MRC Centre for Transplantation has launched its competition as part of the #MRCFestival in June.
Students from King's Widening Participation Network are invited to enter a competition:
"What is the lifecycle of a clinical trial - from idea to patient treatment?"
Entries could be a poem, letter, rap, song, diagram, collage, artwork, 30 sec video or any other form to communicate the answer.

Entries close on Monday 8 May and the 6 winners will be notified by Friday 12 May.
Winning entries will be displayed in the atrium at Guy's Hospital as part of International Clinical Trials Day #iamresearch.

Winners will spend a VIP day at the MRC Centre for Transplantation on Wednesday 21 June and with:
-hands on time in our labs using state of the art equipment
-conduct experiments alongside international researchers
-discover career paths in science
-work with transplant patients and an artist to create the MRC Centre for Transplantation's 10 year anniversary centrepiece

For more information about the competition or the #MRCFestival, contact Kris Chadwick on 020 7188 5669.

Exploring 3D Printed Organs in the Medicine Galleries

Ahead of the opening of London's Science Museum's new Medicine Galleries in 2019 the Museum is acquiring a host of fascinating objects that will be on display. Curator Selina Hurley tells us the story behind two such objects, 3D printed models of a kidney and abdomen used to plan a kidney transplant by MRC Centre for Transplantation Research Fellow, Pankaj Chandak. Read Selina's full blog here:

World Kidney Day

On Thursday 9 March, the Division of Transplantation, Immunology and Mucosal Biology, the MRC Centre for Transplantation (@mrc_trans) and the Advance Kidney Clinical Care team at GSTT held an event to raise awareness of “Healthy lifestyles to keep kidneys healthy” as part of World Kidney Day.
The day started with an information stall in the lobby of Guy's Hospital set up by Chantal Dormido, a clinical nurse specialist in the Advance Kidney Clinical Care team at Guy's Hospital and she was supported by Victoria Hanson consultant manager, and clinical nurse specialists:  Elinor Eblamo-Abad, Sonia Swaby-Clarke, Aminata Turay-Jalloh, Carleen Kerr, and Susanne Hall, and Nicholas Palmer- BKPA Head of Patient Support Services.  Nina Walters and May Rabuya, clinical research nurses from the MRC Centre for Transplantation also volunteered to help out at the stall.  Libby Wolfe, a nutritionist and Benjamin Payne a physio therapist from the Advance Kidney Clinical Care team were also on hand to offer help and advice to the general public.  In addition to the volunteers, the stall had information on how to improve your kidney health, how to become an organ donor and offered free gym passes to motivate people to #move4kidneys. 
In preparation for our second event as part of World Kidney Day, we took a poll of favourite music to work out to and the top three tunes were: Europe - Final Countdown, Queen - Don't stop me now and Britney Spears - Toxic.  At 1200 a team of four accepted the Guy's Tower Ben Nevis Challenge which consisted of climbing the 29 floors of Guy's Tower 9 times - or to the equivalent height of Ben Nevis!  Prof Steven Sacks set the climbers, David Hardy, Tony Farrar, Chris Nauser and Mark Howard off and incredibly 56 minutes later, Mark Howard completed all 9 ascents.  He then continued to keep the other climbers company as they completed the challenge and so completed the ascent 11 times in total. 
Here is a sample of the feedback from people who stopped by the stall:
“We think it is really important to raise awareness, you should bring this in schools”.
“I am a transplant patient and Guy's Hospital really takes good care of me!”
“My dad just had AKI; I need more information to try to prevent this happening to the other members of the family”
“We will support you in creating awareness thank you!”
“I need to exercise, I know that! Thanks for the gym trial passes!”
“Thank you for this information, I need this!”

International Paediatric Transplant Association (IPTA) Young Scholars Award 2017 to Pankaj Chandak

Congratulations to Pankaj Chandak who was awarded the International Paediatric Transplant Association (IPTA) Young Scholars Award 2017.  This prestigious award is given to a single trainee who has shown promise and potential in the field of paediatric transplantation and will be presented at the IPTA conference in Barcelona in May. IPTA, aims to advance the science and practice of paediatric transplantation worldwide in order to improve the health of all children requiring such treatment. The Association is dedicated to promoting technical and scientific advances in paediatric transplantation. 

Pankaj, in addition, was also awarded The Royal College of Surgeons Rosetrees' Essay Prize (runner up) for an essay on the importance of research in clinical surgery.  He will be awarded this prize at the College Diplomates' Ceremony on the 8th March.  The Rosetrees Trust is a family charitable trust established in 1987 with the aim of supporting the best in medical research and that which is likely to lead to early diagnosis, treatment, therapies and medication. The Trust has supported the College's Surgical Research Fellowship Scheme since 2000 and is particularly interested in helping surgeons develop the practical application of their skills and experience for the direct benefit of patients.

At the Sharpe end of research

Leading nephrologist Dr Claire Sharpe is a Reader in Renal Medicine and an Honorary Consultant Nephrologist at King's College London and King's College Hospital.

She divides her time equally between her research and teaching work and her clinical work with renal patients, including those with kidney damage caused by sickle cell disease.

Her research studies are significantly advancing our understanding of the development of renal fibrosis - the main underlying cause of kidney failure. She hopes this ongoing work will eventually lead to the development of new anti-fibrotic drugs which could make Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) a treatable condition, resulting in fewer patients needing to depend on dialysis to survive.

Kidney Research UK has played a pivotal role in the career of the mother of three; by initially awarding her a Clinical Training Fellowship in 1999 and by funding three of her research projects.

But Dr Sharpe believes her personal success can also be put down to three key factors: dogged determination, chance opportunities and supportive individuals.

“I'm very lucky to be able to do all the things I enjoy while still having the flexibility to focus on my young family, whenever they need me. It's very hard work but it's enormously rewarding,” she says.

“I've had the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time on several occasions and I have learned to stay focused and persevere - even when faced with countless grant rejections. I've also been extremely lucky to have support from pivotal people throughout my career including my husband, mentors, colleagues and our nanny who provided invaluable, reliable childcare for 14 years.”

Dr Sharpe's interest in science began at a very early age.

“I've been interested in science for as long as I can remember,” she says. “But I suppose my initial drive to turn my passion into a career came from a rather unexpected source. I remember my physics teacher saying to me: 'Girls really only do Physics A Level because they know they're going to be in a class full of boys.' And that comment made me determined to show him that I was going to do things differently.

“Alongside him, the other person that truly influenced me was Rosalind Franklin - an X-ray crystallographer who worked at King's College London in the early 1950s. She was the person who collected the data that proved the structure of DNA. But she died tragically at a young age, only receiving her due recognition after death. Her story really fired me up as a teenager and the injustice of it all made me want to go on and fight the cause as well. So I went to University College London (UCL) to study medicine.

“Even at my interview for medical school I was clear that I wanted to do medical research. I was attracted to the idea of pushing the boundaries forward - all that new knowledge and all the potential possibilities - I found this fascinating.”

Dr Sharpe chose to leave her first registrar post in the UK to go travelling, before resuming her clinical work in Australia. This decision led to a meeting with Professor Bruce Hendry (fibrosis expert, Professor Emeritus at King's College, London and immediate past President of the UK Renal Association) who was in Sydney for an international renal conference. This meeting eventually paved the way for Dr Sharpe to begin her PhD, under his supervision and mentorship.

“Fibrosis is the process that causes organs to fail, not just the kidney, and it's a common process,” she says.

“When you repeatedly injure an organ eventually that organ will start to scar in response to injury, rather than repair and regenerate. And that switch from repair and regeneration to scar formation is little understood, but it's the laying down of scar tissue, replacing the normal functional tissue, that actually causes organ failure.

“By understanding what drives this scarring process, my research team hope to influence that switch from repair and regeneration to scar formation. We have previously discovered that a master signalling molecule within cells called K-Ras is vital in the scarring process. In the first of my ongoing research projects, funded by Kidney Research UK, we are hoping to learn more about the way K-Ras sends messages to the cell to change cell behaviour. We are also aiming to identify new proteins that could be useful for future drug development.

“Kidney disease often arises from abnormal cell growth in the filtering units of the kidney. Patients who show these changes include those with common diseases such as diabetes and lgA nephropathy - a condition that occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin A (IgA) lodges in the kidneys. In our second project, we are investigating whether a new type of drug, known as a selective T-type calcium channel (TTCC) inhibitor, could potentially benefit these patients and reduce kidney damage. Depending on the outcome of our studies, this drug could go on to be tested in clinical trials.

”In addition to many other renal roles and responsibilities, Dr Sharpe is Head of the Department of Renal Sciences in the Division of Transplant Immunology and Mucosal Biology, at King's College, London. She is also chair of the Divisional Athena SWAN Self-assessment committee which successfully obtained a silver charter mark from the government-backed Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) for demonstrating gender equality.

“Around 55 per cent of people coming into medicine are female but this drops to about 15 per cent at professor level, so no institution can say that they don't have a gender inequality,” says Dr Sharpe. “It's about looking at your data and trying to work out why you have one and what you can do to address it.

“Some processes do effectively discriminate against women, even in an unintentional kind of way. For example, setting up decision-making meetings at 8am when people are doing the school run or not rotating people at these meetings, so it's harder for people to get involved. It's all sorts of things like that that impact on career progression. But I think there has been a sea change in academia over the past five years which is making a big impact on gender equality.

“Looking back on my own experiences I think I had enough faith in the system to know that being heavily pregnant at my clinical science award interview would not adversely influence the outcome. However I did find that, on returning back to work full-time after having one of my children, attitudes changed towards me somewhat. Because my working week was split between two locations, I was treated as a part-timer and I experienced some of the incorrect assumptions associated with working part-time, such as people thinking you're not fully committed or part of their team. People need to recognise that these attitudes are not appropriate.

“I also think that, moving forward, gender and age should be removed from all application processes. This would get rid of the risk of unconscious bias in these areas.

“I have been very fortunate to have had inspiring mentors throughout my career but in the early days all my mentors were men, because there just weren't many women to choose from. It would have been nice to have had a woman who had been through some of the things I was going through at that time.

“Hopefully now that there is a greater critical mass of female scientists we will be able to mentor the new people coming through and inspire them to catch the research bug, just as we did.”

Dr Sharpe's research work recently took her into totally new territory - the arts. She was one of four female scientists who took part in a special project called The Franklin Effect, which was run by The Electric Voice Theatre. As part of the project, which celebrates the work of Rosalind Franklin and collaboration between the arts and sciences, Dr Sharpe was paired up with British composer Lynne Plowman. She gave Lynne the chemical sequence to the K -Ras gene and Lynn transposed it into a musical score, written for a four voice part. This was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and at the Science Museum and is now available on CD.

“It's certainly not pop music or easy listening, but it is interesting and the project was great fun,” she says. “And that's what I love about research - it always offers endless possibilities!”

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