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Full NameProfessor Cecilia O'Kane
Department:Centre for Experimental Medicine
Organisation:Queen's University Belfast
- infectious disease and the immune system
- cell and developmental biology/regenerative medicine
- Respiratory Medicine
We are a group of researchers focussed on developing new therapies for and understanding mechanisms in, inflammatory lung disease, in particular Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). Our work spans the spectrum from basic human cell experiments in vitro through pre-clinical models to clinical trials in patients. We have a strong emphasis on testing therapies in human pre-clinical models before progressing to clinical studies. Our human pre-clinical models of ARDS include the ex vivo human perfused (and ventilated) lung, and LPS inhalation followed by BAL in healthy volunteers. We are one of only 2 centres in the UK to run the ex vivo lung model to test therapies for ARDS, and we have used the human LPS model to test a range of anti-inflammatory and pro-reparative therapeutics (Shyamsundar 2009 AJRCCM, Shyamsundar 2014 AJRCCM). More recently we have developed an interest in mesenchymal stromal cell (MSC) therapy as a novel therapy for ARDS and have obtained funding to progress to a clinical trial in ARDS.
We will shortly begin a trial of umbilical cord derived MSCs for the treatment of ARDS. This will give us a unique opportunity to study the interaction of MSCs with human host cells in the injured lung. The PhD fellow will have the opportunity to be involved in the recruitment of the patients to this clinical trial and would have ownership of a study investigating (1) biomarkers of efficacy in these patient (2) looking at cellular phenotypes in BAL and blood of patients receiving MSCs, including the effect of the MSCs on driving macrophage polarisation from inflammatory to pro-reparative, (3) anti-microbial activities of the cells in patients. Tentative mechanisms of efficacy and anti-microbial activity will be further explored in the ex vivo human lung model.
The fellow will have the opportunity to work in a vibrant cl
inical and laboratory based group driving forward translational research in the critically ill, using cutting edge technology (cell therapy).