Dr Emma Blain

Dr Emma Blain

Senior Lecturer

School of Biosciences

Email:
blain@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44 (0)29 2087 5171
Fax:
+44 (0)29 2087 4594
Location:
Sir Martin Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX

Research overview

My research interests encompass the cellular and molecular events that are involved in maintaining articular cartilage tissue homeostasis, and the mechanism/s that propagate degeneration of the tissue as observed in the pathology of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a multi-factorial disease and one of the major risk factors is abnormal mechanical load i.e. through sports injury, obesity. Affiliated with the Arthritis Research UK Biomechanics and Bioengineering Centre, I manage the mechanical loading laboratory in the School of Biosciences (Figure 1), where my research area is the identification of signalling pathways that mediate either anabolic or catabolic responses in connective tissues, in particular articular cartilage. Collectively, the aims of my research and the projects that I am currently involved in are to (1) identify novel mechanotransduction pathways that influence cartilage chondrocyte homeostasis, (2) understand the underlying mechanisms of cartilage destruction propagated by abnormal mechanical load, and (3) identify targeted interventions to delay/halt osteoarthritis progression.

  • 1995-1998 BSc (1st Class Hons) Biochemistry with Medical Biochemistry (Cardiff)
  • 1998-2002 PhD (BBSRC CASE Award with Amersham Biosciences, Cardiff)

Teaching profile

    BI0001 – Cells and the Chemistry of Life

    BI2306 – Cells, Tissues and the Extracellular Matrix

    BI3321 – Functional Anatomy of the Musculoskeletal System

    BI3006 – Final Year Projects (laboratory and literature)

    BIT001 - MSc Tissue Engineering

    EN3460 - Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering (School of Engineering)

My research interests encompass the cellular and molecular events that are involved in maintaining articular cartilage tissue homeostasis, and the mechanism/s that propagate degeneration of the tissue as observed in the pathology of osteoarthritis. More specifically, my research interests are:

  • Delineating the role of the canonical and non-canonical WNT pathways in transducing mechanical signals in articular cartilage.
  • Investigating mechano-regulation of microRNAs in articular cartilage.
  • Assessing the efficacy of Boswellia frereana (Somalian Frankincense) as a disease-modifying agent in osteoarthritis (Patents:  EP2456451 and 201080041308.0).
  • Investigating why ankle osteoarthritis only develops as a result of previous mechanical trauma.
  • Elucidating the role of the chondrocyte cytoskeleton, in particular the vimentin intermediate filaments (Figure 2), in sensing mechanical load, and how these intracellular networks transduce mechanical signals into a biochemical response in articular cartilage.

Collectively, the aims of my research and the projects that I am currently involved in are to (1) identify novel mechanotransduction pathways that influence cartilage chondrocyte homeostasis, (2) understand the underlying mechanisms of cartilage destruction propagated by abnormal mechanical load, and (3) identify targeted interventions to delay/halt osteoarthritis progression.

Current funding

  • Arthritis Research UK
  • Cardiff University President's studentship
  • Orthopaedic Research UK
  • CUROP

Previous funding

  • MRC DPFS (in collaboration with Newcastle University)
  • Arthritis Research UK
  • Dunhill Medical Trust
  • Kuwait Embassy Studentship
  • BBSRC CASE Studentship (AstraZeneca)
  • EPSRC Dorothy Hodgkin Studentship
  • SARTRE
  • Cardiff University Partnership Fund
  • Departmental Seedcorn

Affiliated staff

Dr Ayesha Al-Sabah (Research Associate)

Postgraduate research students

Previous PhD students

  • 2016 Oliver Gardner
  • 2015 Ayesha Al-Sabah
  • 2014 Joanna Li (with School of Engineering)
  • 2010 Rebecca Harrison
  • 2009 Siyuan Li

Collaborations

External

  • Professor David Young (Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University)
  • Professor Drew Rowan (Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University)
  • Professor Martin Knight (School of Engineering, Queen Mary University of London)

Internal

  • Professor Vic Duance, Dr Sophie Gilbert, Dr Ahmed Ali, Dr Emyr Lloyd-Evans (School of Biosciences)
  • Professor Sam Evans (School of Engineering)
  • Dr Bronwen Evans (School of Medicine)
  • Dr Craig Boote (School of Optometry)
  • Mr Rhys Thomas (Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust, University Hospital of Wales)

Membership of Societies

  • British Society for Matrix Biology
  • Biochemical Society
  • Cardiff Institute of Tissue Engineering and Repair