Thanks to the efforts of our fundraising committee, the Louise Gergel Fellowship and matching funding from LUPUS UK the charity has been able to support a year-long APS research project at University College London (UCL) carried out by Dr Vera Ripoll-Nunez.
Dr Ripoll-Nunez started her career in Colombia working at the Institute of Immunology, focussing on malaria which is the leading cause of death in Colombia. During this time, she developed a passion to forge a career in immunology and worked in Australia and the UK.
She has been working at UCL since 2011, and played a key role in the 2010-2016 research programme funded by Arthritis Research UK that looked into the causes of APS.
Her new project builds on this earlier research and will look at a new biological target in the treatment of APS: an important process called autophagy in which the body’s cells renew themselves.
Dr Ripoll-Nunez is aiming to prove that a malfunction in autophagy leads the immune system to attack the body itself causing symptoms of APS, and she has already obtained promising results indicating that APS-derived antibodies act to reduce autophagy.
She says: “With the Louise Gergel Fellowship, I propose to build on the exciting results generated from my previous research at UCL”.
Autophagy is a hot topic in scientific research at the moment, and the 2016 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded for work on the subject.
One of the available drugs that act on autophagy, sirolimus,has been the subject of a study looking at kidney transplants in patients with APS and the UCL research team believe that pursuing the investigation of autophagy in APS could potentially help patients in the future.