Success for IICD Researchers at the Medical School Research Meeting 2017

The 2017 Medical School Research Meeting entitled “Research Success: Having an Impact” took place on Thursday 15th and Friday 16th June. This annual event highlights on-going research by staff and students across all of the Medical School Departments. The talks and posters were all of very high quality.

The meeting concluded with prizes awarded to the best speakers and the best posters as judged by Professor Gillian Bates, Professor of Molecular Neuroscience at the University College London and Professor Nigel Clarke Vice-President of the Faculty of Science at the University of Sheffield.

Researchers from the Department of Infection, Immunity & Cardiovascular Disease (IICD) were awarded the following prizes:

Oral Presentations (as assessed by the internal & external judge)
1st Place – Dr Jessica Johnston [Department of Infection, Immunity & Cardiovascular Disease (Kiss-Toth group)]
2nd Place – Dr Rahaf Issa [Department of Infection, Immunity & Cardiovascular Disease (Monk group)]
3rd Place – Mr George Pickering [Departments of Infection, Immunity & Cardiovascular Disease and Oncology & Metabolism (Kiss-Toth/Wilkinson groups)]

Moderated Poster Presentations (as assessed by the internal & external judge)
2nd Place – Mrs Amira Zawia [Department of Infection, Immunity & Cardiovascular Disease (Lawrie group)]

3R’s Poster Presentation Competition Winner
Miss Karishma Chhabria [Department of Infection, Immunity & Cardiovascular Disease (Chico/Howarth group/NICAD)]

Twitter Poster Prize
Winner – Miss Abi Reese [Department of Infection, Immunity & Cardiovascular Disease (Prince group)]
Runner-up – Miss Karishma Chhabria [Department of Infection, Immunity & Cardiovascular Disease (Chico/Howarth group/NICAD)]

Jessica Johnston – ‘Myeloid Trib1 – macrophage polarisation, lipids and metabolism’

“My research focused on characterising the role of Tribbles-1 (Trib1) in tissue macrophages in the context of chronic inflammatory disease. Previous studies have shown Trib1 expression in the liver has an impact on circulating plasma lipids and it also regulates the polarisation state of macrophages. However, the interplay between Trib1, hepatocytes and macrophages remain unexplored. By using in vivo models, I was able to characterise the consequences of Trib1 knockout vs. Trib1 over-expression in myeloid cells. I showed Trib1 alters the phenotype of tissue macrophages in both the liver and adipose tissue, which induces metabolic inflammation that has an impact on the development of chronic inflammatory diseases.

The meeting was a fantastic opportunity to showcase the research done in Sheffield and I was very excited to share some of the work I did during my PhD and even more honoured to receive 1st prize!”

Photo of Jessica Johnson (left) & George Pickering (right) with their prizes

George Pickering – ‘Kif26b in pathological ossification’

“I have been looking at the link between KIF26B and heterotopic ossification (HO), a disease characterised by extra-skeletal bone formation. KIF26B was first linked to HO in genome-wide association studies. It is though that muscle precursor cells differentiate into osteoblasts as part of this condition. I modelled HO in vitro using mouse myoblasts which when stimulated with bone morphogenetic proteins will differentiate into osteoblasts. I have discovered that KIF26B knockout results in a significant difference in the ability of these cells to undergo osteogenic transdifferentiation, and therefore we have concluded that this gene may be of importance in the pathogenesis of HO.

The research meeting was a fantastic event and a great opportunity to present my work. I really enjoyed discussing the work I have completed over the past year with the staff and students in the faculty, and it’s always useful to get feedback and suggestions from others.”

 Karishma Chhabria – ‘Neurovascular coupling in zebrafish’

Photo of Karishma Chhabria (centre) with supervisors Tim Chico (Left) and Clare Howarth (right)

Brain consumes about 20% of the blood circulation in spite of weighing just 2kg of body weight. Neurons don’t have their own energy resource and hence rely on the vasculature for their energy demands. This effective interaction to get a match between energy demand and supply is called neurovascular coupling. Our research is focussed on developing zebrafish models for investigating neurovascular coupling and is a part of a cross faculty network (Neuroimaging of cardiovascular disorders; NICAD). We use novel transgenic lines of zebrafish along with lightsheet microscopy (non-invasive) to image the brain function in response to light stimulation. So far we have observed that eight days old zebrafish exhibit light stimulus associated increases in neuronal calcium (in visual processing areas) and blood velocity. We are now investigating the mechanistic similarity of neurovascular coupling in zebrafish compared to rodent models. On the lines of our funding body (NC3Rs) we wish to establish zebrafish models which can replace and reduce mammalian models in neurovascular research.


“It was a fantastic experience to be a part of the Medical School research meeting. It was the best attempt to bring distant research areas together in room and materialize the theme, ‘from bench to bed side’. All the talks and lectures were well set for the theme and it did give feel how productive the research is at the Medical School.

I enjoyed interacting with brilliant minds (be it from the clinical side or experimental) and get their feedback on my research. Given all these aspects of the meeting, I feel extremely privileged to win the best poster prizes for my research. By the end of the meeting, I felt extremely motivated with all the prizes and feedback to make my research worth a while.”

Amira Zawia – ‘Macrophages in the pathogenesis of pulmonary hypertension’

”My poster presented some of my work that addresses the role of macrophages in pulmonary arterial hypertension, it showed that the reduction of macrophages in animal model can induce the disease spontaneously in male and not female mice. I also presented data on the generation of different chimeras which allow adequate tracing of the origin of cells in order to study the gender bias of the disease.

Participation in the Medical School Research Meeting each year is very useful as it allows sharing of knowledge, experience, troubleshooting and techniques between the students. Of course, winning a prize gives me the confidence to move forward and do my best.”

Abi Reese – “The role and expression of protein kinase erbB2 in human neutrophil survival”

Photo of Abi Reese with her poster

“I presented a poster on one of the projects I have been working on during my placement year, which is centred around the protein receptor kinase ErbB2 and how it can affect the neutrophil lifespan in patients with COPD. My aims were to examine the expression and regulation of ErbB2 in primary human neutrophils, and I achieved this through western blot analysis and flow cytometry.


I found the research day very insightful, it was interesting to see what other students and staff had been doing research on within the medical school. The poster bay tours allowed me to understand in more detail work on infection and immunity but also work on oncology and neuroscience in which I previously did not know much about. I won the twitter competition by tweeting the picture I have below and somehow managed to get enough re-tweets to win!”

Thank you to all those who chaired sessions, presented their work, examined posters, coached individuals/reviewed drafts and/or supported this year’s meeting.” Professor Sheila Francis, Head of Department of Infection, Immunity & Cardiovascular Disease.