Michael Schrauben, the John Slate Scholar

PhD Medical Studies

The transition back to normality has been an arduous one and 2021 has not been a simple year. Building refurbishments, social distancing requirements, and supply chain shortages have hindered research significantly. Despite these difficulties, I'm happy to inform you that our project has made progress and that we're on the precipice of new and exciting data.

The gene-editing system we designed has demonstrated its ability to modify our target region of the genome and we enhanced this effect by optimizing the production pipeline of our viruses. Moreover, we observed the maintenance of our modifications in the cell lines over a prolonged period and increased the number of cells we can harvest, thereby improving data quality. We have used these cells in an epigenome-wide association study to profile the area of effect in the genome and evaluate the sensitivity and specificity of the system. The data from this experiment will serve as a proof-of-concept of our methodology and highlight its potential application in the field of neurodegeneration.

Meanwhile, I presented my work at several conferences and made the most of the hybrid system that emerged this year. In-person events transformed into virtual conferences and short videos along with online chat rooms were used to communicate research findings. The Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) and Alzheimer's Research UK (ARUK) conference hosted my work on their platforms and I talked to my colleagues from the University of Exeter at its Annual Research Event. Thanks to the recent easing of restrictions, we organised our first in-person event as a research group. Additionally, we attended our first in-person conference at the University of Plymouth, where I presented my project in poster format and won First Prize!

Now the COVID crisis is hopefully coming to a close and we have successfully navigated around the obstacles of this transitionary period. In fact, I recently tested positive for COVID and had to self-isolate for two weeks. Nonetheless, I've now fully recovered and I'm excited to return to the lab and continue our experiments. In the end, it's not about how many times we fall, but about how many times we get back up! And come 2022, we will be able to properly research neurodegeneration and advance the objectives of our project.

Thank you as always for your continued support John, and see you next year!