In today's blog, we Introduce Leah Taylor, a PhD student who is exploring a way of analysing disease progression in AKU to make it easier to understand and track what AKU is doing to patients bodies.
What were you doing before this PhD research project?
I moved to Liverpool in 2012 from North Wales to start my undergraduate degree in Anatomy and Human Biology. This degree taught me in fine detail the structure and function of the human body. I obtained a first class degree with honours and won the Thomas Stanley Hartman prize in Anatomy in recognition of my academic success. During my degree, we were encouraged to engage in research and in my third year I carried out a research project working on postural control in a diseased group with the aim of reducing falls in the elderly. After this, I realised that I wanted to pursue clinical research that would have an impact on a patient population.
What inspired you to want to get involved in the project/ Why AKU?
My PhD is quantitative image analysis of disease progression in AKU. I have an anatomical background that is required to read various scans. I also have experience and a keen interest in imaging and image analysis. This PhD was perfect for me in terms of my skills and background but not only that it was working on a rare disease that could possibly contribute to providing a cure for these patients. This was a massive motivation for me to be involved with a research group that could ultimately improve the lives of hundreds of people. AKU is a rare disease not only is it our aim to cure and improve the lives of those suffering from AKU, but lessons from rare diseases can also lead to developments in much more common diseases such as osteoarthritis, so we may have an effect on a much larger patient population.
What do you hope to achieve?
We hope to develop quantitative methods for clinicians to assess the progression of AKU as well as patient response to nitisinone using PET imaging. Currently, the PET images are scored semi-quantitatively by the clinician. We are now working on a quantitative method that gives us a value representing the amount of radioactivity in a selected area, this value can be repeated for each visit and any changes can be easily identified.
What are you doing now?
I have just started a new post as a Lecturer in medical sciences- anatomy at the University of Central Lancashire, whereby I will be teaching anatomy to students within the School of dentistry. I will continue and complete my PhD now here at UCLan within the next year and plan to continue to collaborate with my colleagues in Liverpool University researching into AKU for the foreseeable future thereafter.
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