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Further funding to advance health research at Bristol

Advancing fertility research: image of a mouse egg cell (oocyte)

Supporting friends and relatives of survivors of domestic violence

Screening osteoporosis genes: microscope image of a living juvenile zebrafish head Modified from: Bergen DJM et al. 2019, Front Endocrinol

29 January 2019

Elizabeth Blackwell Institute nurtures research to improve health for all. We're proud to share the recent funding successes of some of our awardees who have gone on to secure further for their research projects in three very different areas: fertility treatment, domestic violence support and Osteoporosis.

£1.42 million to advance fertility research

Dr Binyam Mogessie has been recently awarded an extremely prestigious Wellcome Trust Sir Henry Dale Fellowship of £1.42 million over 5 years to investigate ‘Actin-dependent mechanisms of chromosome segregation in mammalian oocytes’.

A cell with an abnormal number of chromosomes has what is called aneuploidy, which is a leading cause of human embryo deaths, miscarriages and infertility. Dr Mogessie’s work investigates the mechanisms which separate the chromosomes in mammalian eggs and embryos, and how these are disrupted in disease.

In order to bolster a Wellcome Trust/Royal Society Sir Henry Dale Fellowship application, Dr Mogessie used funding from the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute to search for proteins which act to join actin and microtubules together in immature mouse egg cells (oocytes). Specifically, he was able to use the funds to secure a variety of antibodies with which to identify 16 target proteins, to gain access to sufficient oocytes for the work, and for extensive confocal microscope imaging.

Dr Mogessie said: “During the funding period, I was able to secure a Seed Award from the Wellcome Trust (£100k) and I am certain the funding from Elizabeth Blackwell Institute has positively contributed to this success.

“Funding from EBI was instrumental in generating some preliminary data to directly address reviewers’ questions during the Henry Dale Fellowship interview.”

Read the full case study here: New findings may have implications for fertility treatment

Further funds to help friends and relatives of survivors of domestic violence

Elizabeth Blackwell Institute fellow, Dr Alison Gregory, has been awarded an AXA Research Fund Fellowship for a two-year project starting in August 2019 to develop and pilot an intervention specifically tailored for informal supporters of people who have experienced domestic violence.

One in four UK women experience domestic violence at some time in their lives, and most seek informal support from the people around them, even if they don’t choose to access professional help. The impact of domestic violence on survivors can be devastating, particularly for their physical and mental health. In her PhD research Dr Gregory found this was not just limited to survivors, it rippled outwards to people in the survivor’s social support network.

Dr Alison Gregory research looks at the support needs of friends and family members of people who have experienced domestic violence to work out how best to help this often-neglected group.

An Elizabeth Blackwell Institute Early Career Fellowship allowed Dr Gregory to strengthen her publication record with articles in BMJ Open, the Journal of Gender-Based Violence, and Trauma, Violence, & Abuse.  She also forged further partnerships with survivor support organisations, and established new and extended UK and international research collaborations.

Dr Gregory said: "The Elizabeth Blackwell Institute Fellowship was instrumental in winning me further research funding, including a research fellowship (traumatised and vulnerable populations) from Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group.

Read the full case study here: Friends and relatives of survivors of domestic violence - what support do they need?

New funding could lead to novel Osteoporosis treatments

Osteoporosis is largely genetically determined, so discovering new bone strengthening genes could lead to novel and better treatments. Two large genetic studies in humans at the University of Bristol have identified hundreds of new genes that may cause changes in bone strength. The challenge now is to identify the key genes responsible for osteoporosis.

The results of a pilot to identify genes from these two databases with the greatest bone strengthening potential, has won Elizabeth Blackwell fellow, Dr Bergen, a Versus Arthritis Foundation Fellowship to take this exciting work forward.

Dr Dylan Bergen said: “The Elizabeth Blackwell Institute discipline hopping fellowship has been invaluable in generating preliminary data of high impact in the bone research field. My ultimate aim is to further solidify this pipeline for therapeutic screening in zebrafish, identifying therapeutic agents that influence zebrafish bone remodeling which can be eventually translated back to humane medicine to treat human disease.”

An Elizabeth Blackwell Institute Postgraduate Discipline Hopping Fellowship undertaken at Translational Health Sciences in Bristol Medical School, allowed Dr Dylan Bergen to identify genes from these two databases with the greatest bone strengthening potential, before ‘hopping’ back to his PhD discipline in dynamic cell biology to validate his predictions on zebrafish in the lab. His aim was to lay the foundation for future studies to identify therapeutic drug targets and develop medical interventions to prevent serious, sometimes even life threatening, osteoporotic fractures in humans.

Read the full case study here: Fast identification and screening of osteoporosis genes could lead to novel treatments

Further information

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