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John Radcliffe Hospital, Level 5 and 6, Headley Way, Headington, Oxford, OX3 9DU

DPhil start date

Trinity term 2019

Project title

Sentinel skin flaps for immune monitoring in solid organ transplantation


Mr Henk Giele, Professor Peter Friend, Dr Joanna Hester, and Dr Fadi Issa

Helen Stark

MA (Cantab.), MBBS, MRCS

DPhil student and Clinical Research Fellow in Plastic Surgery

I began my medical training at Emmanuel College, Cambridge where I first developed my interest in research, working in Professor Graham Burton’s lab, researching the effects of ischaemia-reperfusion injury in placentae. I completed my medical training at University College London, graduating with Distinction. I am currently a plastic surgery trainee, in the Northern Deanery, and have taken time out of the programme to complete a DPhil in Surgical Sciences. Within plastic surgery I am particularly interested in trauma and the reconstructive potential of vascularised composite allografts (VCAs).

The focus of my DPhil is to improve monitoring of solid organ transplant patients. Currently we do not have a specific measure of rejection in transplant, despite it being a significant cause of damage to the transplanted organs. I will be studying whether the use of a vascularised skin flap, a form of VCA, transplanted from the same donor as the solid organ acts as an accurate marker of rejection. This will involve a clinical trial in lung transplantation patients, as well as the analysis of blood and tissue samples from our biobank of patients who have had either a sentinel skin flap or abdominal wall transplantation in Oxford. As well as the potential to improve monitoring for solid organ transplants, this research will also give further insights into rejection in vascularised composite allografts.