Emily Shorter

Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease University of Liverpool

Supervisors: Dr Blandine Poulet, Dr Kasia Whysall and Dr George Bou-Gharios

I completed my Molecular Biology and Genetics degree at the University of Westminster in 2017, where I conducted a research project investigating the relationship between salivary telomere length and childhood obesity. I continued this research in the form of a summer placement in the same lab.I then went on to do an MSc in Molecular Medicine at the University of East Anglia. My Master’s research project involved investigating the contribution of inflammation and cellular senescence to human skin ageing. This research project really confirmed my desire to pursue research and academia, specifically on the genetic basis of ageing associated diseases. It was also during my master’s degree that I learned about the role of microRNAs in chronic disease. My interest in the therapeutic potential of miRNAs then led me to successfully apply for a related BBSRC DTP PhD studentship at the University of Liverpool. Now I’m one year into my project - investigating the role of miRNAs in musculoskeletal ageing and disease.

Project Title: Musculoskeletal tissue ageing: the role of microRNAs in joint homeostasis 

Musculoskeletal tissue dysfunction is the leading cause of frailty, falls, and decreased quality of life in older people.  Osteoarthritis (OA) – the most common cause of chronic disability in adults - is an ageing-associated musculoskeletal disease characterised by articular cartilage damage, low-grade synovial inflammation, and hypertrophic bone changes, which ultimately lead to the deterioration of joint function. 

MicroRNAs are a novel class of non-coding RNA that bind to messenger RNAs, induce degradation or inhibit protein translation, and thus work to post-transcriptionally regulate gene expression. Research has previously demonstrated the differential regulation of specific miRNAs in OA and musculoskeletal tissue ageing.  As such, it is hypothesised that correcting the expression of selected microRNAs in OA, using miR antagomirs and mimics, could work to restore function of the joint tissue. 

The main aim of my PhD is to therefore demonstrate the OA-related dysregulation of microRNA:target interactions in the joint, and investigate whether interventions to correct these levels can restore joint homeostasis and tissue function.

Other activities

A mini-review that I co-wrote: ‘Skeletal Muscle Wasting and Its Relationship With Osteoarthritis: a Mini-Review of Mechanisms and Current Interventions’ has recently been published in ‘Current rheumatology reports’.

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