Stem cell research by PhD students from the University of Lincoln has been highlighted at a prestigious international conference attended by surgeons and academics from around the world.

Issam Hussain and Neil Jelly, PhD students in the university’s Department of Forensic and Biomedical Sciences, were invited to present papers at the 44th Congress of the European Society for Surgical Research (ESSR) in Nimes, France. Meanwhile their colleague Andrew Sloan, a PhD researcher, travelled to Helsinki, Finland, to give a presentation at the European Wound Management Association.

All three are members of the University of Lincoln’s Stem Cell Research Team, which is led by Dr Mohamed El-Sheemy, a senior lecturer in Clinical Sciences at the university and a practising breast surgeon at Lincoln County Hospital, which is part of the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust. The students were presenting work on an international stage for the first time. Messrs Hussain and Jelly will now have their work published in a book on the conference proceedings.

Dr El-Sheemy said: “These different research projects have one theme in common, which is the involvement of the stem cell. Stem cells are at the forefront of medical research and I am very pleased that two of the research students have been nominated for prizes at these international meetings. This means that our research programme is well appreciated at the international level. This will magnify the research profile at the University of Lincoln and the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust.”

Mr Jelly was nominated for the conference’s best research prize for his study into the resistance of breast cancer cells to chemotherapy drugs. He is conducting a molecular and cellular evaluation of multi-drug resistance in human breast cancer cells. It is hoped the work, a joint research project between the University of Lincoln and United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, will help clinicians develop more suitable treatment for breast cancer patients.

Chemotherapy drugs are routinely used in cancer treatment, yet many cancers are either already resistant to them or develop resistance during treatment. Clinical assessment of chemotherapy can be difficult and may not detect any beneficial response until after several courses of treatment.

Mr Jelly said: “This research is anticipated to develop methods that accurately evaluate the presence of drug resistance and the identification of more effective chemotherapeutic regimens and combinations, lessening the toxic effect on normal human cells. These may lead eventually to improvements in treatment outcome and decrease morbidity of cancer patients with drug resistance.”

Mr Hussain is evaluating the potential of using human umbilical cord blood as a source of ‘non-haematopoietic’ stem cells for clinical transplantation. The traditional source for these has been from bone marrow. But taking bone marrow samples is painful and invasive for patients. Mr Hussain’s research explores whether umbilical cord blood could be used as an alternative source. These stem cells are useful because of their versatility.

Mr Sloan’s research looks at the effect of smoking on the healing of fractures. His work has been nominated for a young investigator prize at the joint meeting of the European Tissue Repair Society and the International Society for Wound Healing, which takes place in France in August. Clinical studies have shown that smoking can delay fracture healing. One study reported that a fractured tibia will take on average one month longer to heal in smokers than non-smokers. But the reasons for this have been, until now, poorly studied and few experiments have involved human tissues.

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