Meet the Scientist - Professor David Abraham

Date: Thu 14th March 2019

Here at Scleroderma and Raynaud's UK, we invest in research to save lives. The more research we can conduct into both scleroderma and Raynaud's, the closer we get to having better treatments and eventually a cure. Thanks to your support, SRUK is able to work with a number of dedicated, inspiring scientists who all endeavour to further understanding of the two conditions. We do this to improve the quality of people's lives, and ultimately to save lives. Each research scientist has experienced varying journeys to accomplish their many impressive achievements. Here is a little insight into the lives of some of the researchers we fund, what keeps them in the laboratory and the future of research.

Professor David Abraham:

As a young PhD student in the early 1980s, David worked at both Queen Elizabeth College and at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology in London, where his research focussed on dermal fibroblasts (a key cell type involved in scleroderma). He is now a Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology at UCL and Co-Director of the Centre for Rheumatology and Connective Tissue Diseases, University College London UCL where he continues to work on inflammation and fibrosis. SRUK recently funded David and his team to investigate factors that contribute to the development of calcinosis in scleroderma patients.

  1. What inspired your interest in scleroderma and Raynaud's?

During my PhD, I was introduced to Dame Carol Black (President of SRUK), as my colleagues Dr Irwin Olsen and Professor Bryan Winchester had developed a collaboration with her looking into scleroderma-associated skin and lung fibrosis. This provided an opportunity to work with Carol and her clinical research fellows Dr Rama Vancheeswaran and Dr Salvatore Lupoli. Their passion and desire to understand the diseases in order to help treat patients sparked my interest in scleroderma and I was able to harness my expertise in fibroblast biology to help understand the changes in scleroderma fibroblasts and fibrosis. This interest continues to this day.

  1. What key areas do you think are going to be really exciting for research over the next 5 years?

I think there are three areas that are going to be key to biomedical research over the coming years. Firstly, advances in genetics and epigenetics to understand in more detail how our genes are controlled and what underlies their dysregulation in disease. Secondly, the use of single cell analysis to provide in-depth phenotyping of cell populations within tissues, in order to define the role and impact of different cells on biological processes such as inflammation and tissue repair, and how they contribute to human disease. Finally, we need to harness these areas to improve treatment and develop clear approaches to precision medicine and targeted anti-fibrotic therapeutics.

  1. You get to throw a dream, once in a lifetime, dinner party – who would you invite?

Hippocrates, Emmeline Pankhurst, Sir Alfred Ramsay, Richard Feynman, and Elizabeth Garret Anderson.

  1. Finally, what is your one desert island disc?

“Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" by Frank Sinatra. It was the song my oldest daughter liked when she was a toddler, and she is now nearly 30 and remembers it to this day!

Glossary:

  • Dermal fibroblasts: cells found within skin, which are responsible for generating new connective tissue and allowing the skin to recover from injury.
  • Epigenetics: the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself.
  • Single cell analysis: the study of various cellular functions and processes, at a single cell level.
  • Phenotyping: Defining the physical and biochemical characteristics of an organism, organ or cell, based upon both genes and environmental factors.

If you are interested in helping SRUK to fund scientific research, then please visit our donations page here. We rely on the generosity of our community to continue to support groundbreaking research in both scleroderma and Raynaud's.

If you would like information on other treatments for Raynaud's and scleroderma, please visit: Find Support

Information on another piece of new research can be found here: Importance of behaviour change interventions in Raynaud's management