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Valentina Gifford

MSc in Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Technology

DPhil Student

  • Kennedy Trust Prize Studentship

I received my MSc in Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Technology from the University of Pisa, Italy. During my Master's research project, I worked in Prof Rossello's group on the synthesis of small molecular inhibitors of metalloproteinases and I then tested their activity on cell culture at the Kennedy Institute in Dr Itoh's laboratory. The three months I spent at the Kennedy were a truly enriching experience, which strengthened my resolve to pursue a career in scientific research.

My research in Dr Itoh's group, focuses on the intracellular trafficking of the invasion promoting cell-surface proteinase MT1-MMP. This membrane-anchored metalloproteinase has been shown to promote the progression of several diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis and cancer, by enhancing cellular invasion. Degradation of pericellular extracellular matrix (ECM) is one of the major mean MT1- MMP uses to promote cellular invasion, thus its localisation to the invasion front of the migrating cell is a crucial regulatory mechanism. We have found that MT1-MMP polarized localization is achieved by intracellular trafficking events and that four kinesin motor superfamily proteins (KIFs) are potentially involved. Aim of my PhD project is to identify the role of these KIFs in localising MT1-MMP to different areas of the plasma membrane employing 2D and 3D culture conditions. Pursuing this goal will provide new insight into mechanisms which govern MT1-MMP intracellular trafficking and cell-surface exposure, useful targets to control MT1-MMP mediated cell invasion.