My interest in medical research first began during my medical degree and intercalated BSc at Imperial College. It further developed throughout my early medical training and led me to a clinical research fellowship at St George’s University London, investigating the role of the oral microbiome in rheumatoid arthritis. I was subsequently awarded an NIHR academic clinical fellowship in rheumatology at the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit (University of Southampton), researching the epidemiology of musculoskeletal diseases of ageing within the Hertfordshire Cohort (a group of community-dwelling older adults). Here I became acutely aware of the massive global burden of musculoskeletal ageing and fascinated by the role biological age could play in identifying those at risk.
We know that our age in years is not necessarily the same as the age of our body or ‘biological age’. When we think of bone and muscles, some people are running marathons aged 85 and others are unable to walk. A new measure of biological age looks at a particular pattern of genes being switched on or off (epigenetic age) and gives an age of the body, which may be different to conventional age (time from birth).
The title of my DMT-funded research training fellowship project is ‘Does epigenetic age acceleration predict future accelerated musculoskeletal ageing?’ Through my PhD, under the supervision of Professor Cyrus Cooper, Professor Elaine Dennison, Professor Keith Godfrey and Dr Chris Bell, I aim to see if a new measure of biological age can be used to see how healthy our bones and muscles will be in the future. If it works, we may be able to identify people who will get weak bones and muscles early, thereby slowing the ageing process.