Location: Cambridge, UK
What do you do?
I am a Ph.D student at the John van Geest Centre for Brain Repair of the University of Cambridge. My research focuses on gene therapy with the ultimate aim to restore movement and walking after spinal cord injury (SCI). Today, there is no treatment for SCI. With this fact in mind, there is enormous interest in developing treatments for patients who are living with SCI. One reason why SCI is so devastating is that injured neurons do not repair themselves to form new connections. This is partly a genetic problem and therefore gene therapy could contribute as solution.
Gene therapy could be described as the delivery of foreign genes into cells to treat a genetic condition or disease. My research uses viruses for gene delivery, which are evolved to infect other cells with foreign DNA, but by placing potential therapeutic genes inside them. The viral particles will be injected into the brain and the genetic contents of the virus will be released. The brain cells will obtain the therapeutic genes into its DNA and then begin to produce proteins. This could change the cell’s set of instructions to initiate repair of the spinal cord at the site of the injury.
What can you see?
The brain is made up of billions of cells. This microscopy picture shows a neuron from a rat brain that was kept in a dish for two weeks. These cell cultures allow scientists to investigate single neurons. It is also one of the main methods used to understand how the brain works or to test new drugs for brain diseases. The image highlights the typical structure of a neuron. A neuron is made up of many branches with one cell body, which is the core of the cell. The cell body contains a nucleus (not shown) that holds the DNA of the cell inside. The branches are connected to other neurons and together form a huge network within the brain.
When I’m not doing science I… visit the Amsterdam Arena or Stamford Bridge to support Ajax and Chelsea football club, respectively.
You can find Bart on twitter at @