Summer Student Thomas Clark
Supervised by Dr Zaynah Maherally at the University of Portsmouth, Thomas Clark is unlocking the role of pericytes (cells that line blood vessels) in an all-human blood-brain barrier model, to help replace rats and mice in brain tumour research.
One of the major problems in treating brain tumours is the inability of major anti-cancer drugs to enter the brain and reach the tumour. This inaccessibility is due to the presence of the blood-brain barrier, which protects the brain from potentially harmful or toxic substances. A three-dimensional model, comprising solely of human-derived cells and biomaterials, was developed to study how this blood-brain barrier works.
In his summer project, Thomas investigated the role of brain vascular pericytes (cells that line blood vessels) in the model by changing the micro-environmental oxygen levels and studying their known-markers, adhesion and movement. His research findings will be used to further test the implications of pericytes on the ability of brain tumour drugs to reach their targets and contribute to developing better treatments for brain tumour patients.
My summer research project has been a good opportunity for me to gain valuable experience within research – I have been able to improve upon my laboratory skills in a topic I am interested in. Undertaking this research project has therefore helped to increase my employability when applying for my future career. I’m also passionate about the project not using animals, as there are other laboratory techniques that can be used instead.