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Ghada Alsaleh


Versus Arthritis Career Development Fellow

After qualifying as a pharmacist in Syria, Ghada had always been fascinated by the research world and did not want to restrict herself to dispensing drugs. She moved to France to follow her ambition to become a scientific researcher and pursued MSc and doctoral research at the University of Strasbourg under the supervision of Prof Jean Sibilia and Dominique Wachsman. Her PhD project was to study the role of the joint-resident cells known as ‘fibroblast-like synoviocytes’, which are a crucial cell type in Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), a common auto-immune disease. She showed that these cells, which were considered for long time as a passive victim in the disease, behave like cells of the innate immune system. They participate not only in the production of inflammatory mediators which contribute to the articular destruction but also in the activation of T and B lymphocytes which perpetuate the immune response in the synovium. She successfully contributed new insights about the MicroRNAs as a new way of controlling the inflammatory response during rheumatoid arthritis. She discovered miR-346, which acts as a negative regulator of inflammation by inhibiting TNF-α and IL-18 synthesis in activated synoviocytes. This work provided a new mode of inhibition of TNF-a to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

To pursue her career as a scientist, Ghada moved to Oxford in 2017 to join Professor Katja Simon’s group at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, as a post-doc, where she developed a growing curiosity about ageing and the regulation of biological processes that are disturbed during the ageing process. Recently, she showed that TFEB, a master-regulator of autophagy and lysosomal, is specifically reduced in human old lymphoid cells, which contributes to compromised memory T and B cell responses in the elderly. This work has uncovered novel targets and biomarkers for the development of anti-aging drugs for human T cells.

Ghada has recently been awarded funding for her proposal “Targeting autophagy for the treatment of osteoarthritis”. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis worldwide but lacks effective therapy. In this proposal, she aims to design a genetic screen using TFEB protein expression as a read-out to identify new potential targets for the treatment of Osteoarthritis and various age-related diseases.

Ghada is a member of the Kennedy’s post-doc committee and has been part of the Institute’s Green Impact Group for the last 3 years helping it achieve Gold Award status.