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Summer Student Nefisa Marium shines a light on vitamin D

Published on November 21, 2017

One of our former Summer Students, Nefisa Marium, has made a significant contribution to the publication of a scientific research paper. The paper, which was recently published in the Journal of Autoimmunity, has shown that maintaining sufficient vitamin D levels may help to prevent the onset of inflammatory diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis.

However, it also indicates that, once the disease is established, the inflamed joint cells become insensitive to the effects of vitamin D because they have already become committed to inflammation. Therefore, the work suggests that for vitamin D to be beneficial to patients, it may need to be provided along with agents that restore cell sensitivity to vitamin D.

Nefisa Marium at work in the lab

Nefisa Marium at work in the lab

Nefisa was an Animal Free Research UK funded Summer Student in 2016, where she spent 8 weeks researching an independent research topic at the University of Birmingham. She was supervised by Dr. Louisa Jeffery, who explains Nefisa’s contribution, “During her time with us, Nefisa isolated immune cells and obtained and analysed important gene expression data that contributed to our new understanding of vitamin D insensitivity in Rheumatoid Arthritis.”

She also adds that, “Our research on human tissue provides an explanation for [the anti-inflammatory effects of vitamin D] and therefore indicates the crucial importance of animal-free research and especially the use of human tissue taken from the site of disease itself. We are therefore extremely grateful to the support that Animal Free Research UK provided to our study.

This project was a great opportunity for Nefisa, as it gave her an insight into the life of a research scientist. “Although this project was very challenging and time consuming, it was all worth it, knowing that all of the efforts undertaken in the project were successful.  Seeing our team work being published was a great joy, sense of achievement and strong validation of our work. This has made me appreciate the hard and dedicated work scientists do and has given me a confidence boost to pursue more projects.”

Since graduating with a Medical Science degree a year ago, Nefisa has applied for jobs, been travelling and got married. She is currently looking at becoming either a research associate or laboratory technician, “I believe that summer studentships are a great opportunity to spend the summer gaining invaluable research experience and gaining an insight into working in a research environment. This opportunity has definitely helped me in choosing the right career path; science and research is the field for me.”

We fund 8-week Summer Studentships for undergraduate students to gain practical skills in animal-free research. To find out more about our current students, follow this link.

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