Principal Investigator: Professor Munira Kadhim

Lead institution: Oxford Brookes University

Award amount: £115,194

The Trust awarded a two year grant to Professor Kadhim to investigate the effect of radiation on ageing (senescent) cells. This topic is key to understanding how the elderly may respond differently to a common medical procedure, such as an X-ray, and how their cells may react to or recover from such exposure. Given that, with age, we are more likely to be exposed to radiation through diagnosis and/or treatment, it is possible that these interventions can cause irreparable damage to ageing cells and may even be an underlying precursor to neurodegenerative disorders.

Research began in October 2016 and during the course of the project the team intend to understand these questions:

  • Do signals from ageing cells impair recovery from radiation damage?
  • Do signals from radiation-damaged cells accelerate ageing?

They are seeking to answer these questions by analysing exosomes, small vesicles which pass messages from cell to cell. It was only recently that the Genomic Instability Research Group at Oxford Brookes discovered that exosomes are responsible for transmitting signals from irradiated cells to their neighbouring unaffected cells. This significant discovery will underpin the study. This is a particularly advantageous approach due to the relatively inexpensive nature of analysing exosomes.

These signals released by the exosomes will, potentially, act as a screening tool for early disease detection, which is considered crucial for better survival rates, ultimately helping older people stay healthy for longer.

The longer term goal of the research is that it will benefit healthcare professionals in the treatment of elderly patients with a variety of age-related conditions, including neurodegenerative disorders. Initially the results will help clinicians distinguish between aggressive versus mild forms of disease and select the most appropriate drug or radiotherapy treatment, therefore aiding treatment plans.

In addition, the underlying biology may identify yet undiscovered therapeutic targets, such as proteins that can be targeted pharmacologically, or genes that may be suitable for manipulation through gene therapy, again benefiting the patient by improving treatment efficacy.

The project is also in collaboration with The Cellular Biology group from Public Health England and Dr Mark Hill from the Oxford Institute of Radiation Oncology.

Co-applicants on the grant are Dr Ken Raj and Dr Edwin Goodwin

For more information on the grant, please see the June Oxford Brookes newsletter