Dr Sophie Gilbert
I am a post-doctoral researcher interested in three main areas of bone and cartilage biology: the role of inflammatory cytokine signalling and mechanical load in joint degeneration and cartilage repair strategies. My current research involves delineating the role of PKR in arthritis in order to reveal new mechanisms of cytokine and mechanical load mediated joint degeneration that may be targeted in treatment or diagnosis of arthritis. Another research interest focuses on cartilage repair with particular emphasis on investigating why repair tissue poorly integrates with the surrounding host cartilage. I am a member of the UK Centre of Excellence in Biomechanics and Bioengineering whose aim is to drive interdisciplinary studies across a team of internationally recognised researchers and clinicians to improve patient care. I am also an active member of the Cardiff Institute of Tissue Engineering and Repair (CITER) an interdisciplinary network, linking around 150 academic staff from across the University. It is internationally recognised for its expertise in basic, translational and clinical research in the field of tissue repair, regeneration and rehabilitation.
I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Newcastle and then completed a PhD in 1997 at the University of Bristol investigating the role of collagen in the pathogenesis of dilated cardiomyopathy. I moved to the Connective Tissue Research Biology Labs in the School of Biosciences, Cardiff in 1997.
- Member of the British Society for Matrix Biology and BSMB committee member 2014-2017
- Co-organiser (with Dr Emma Blain) of the BSMB Autumn meeting (130 national and international delegates) – Cardiff Sept 2013
- Organiser of the BSMB Autumn 2016 meeting, Cardiff;
- Member of the Cardiff Institute for Tissue Engineering and Repair and CITER Research committee 2012-2017, Chair of the CITER Engagement committee 2016-2019
- Organiser of the CITER Imaging workshop (January 2017)
- Organiser of the CITER Cell Signalling workshop (April 2014)
- Member of the Tissue & Cell Engineering Society (TCES).
- Member of the Arthritis Research UK Biomechanics and Bioengineering Centre and PPI & Engagement Committee, 2016-
- CITER ASM (2014): Intra-articular injection of a PKR inhibitor reduces knee swelling and lameness following acute knee injury in the mouse.
- BRS/BSMB, London (2009): Knockout of P58IPK, a known inhibitor of PKR, in mice results in a degenerative phenotype in the knee joint.
- CITER workskop (2009): The use of Pulsed Low Intensity Ultrasound (PLIUS) in cartilage repair.
- OARSI World Congress on OA, Rome (2008): Successful integrative cartilage repair in vitro can be achieved by inhibiting chondrocyte death at the wound edge.
- BSMB, Keele University (2007): Inhibition of chondrocyte death at the wound edge enhances integrative cartilage repair.
- BSMB, Liverpool University (2005): Ceramide increases matrix synthesis in articular chondrocytes, but at what cost?
- Biochemical Society Meeting 677, Cardiff University (2002): PACT, the protein activator of PKR is up-regulated at the onset of osteoarthritis and by TNF-α treatment of chondrocytes.
- Veterinary Cardiovascular Society Meeting (1997): The possible role of the extracellular matrix in canine dilated cardiomyopathy.
- 5th Annual Congress European Society of Veterinary Internal Medicine (1995): The collagen matrix of dilated cardiomyopathy.
Committees and reviewing
- Engagement Committee - Cardiff Institute of Tissue Engineering and Repair Learning
- Research Committee - Cardiff Institute of Tissue Engineering and Repair Learning
I contribute to teaching on the CITER MSc course in Tissue Engineering Modules 2 (BIT001) and 4 (DET002), as well as the Undergraduate Research Division Seminar Series Talks and on the Functional anatomy of the Musculoskeletal System module (BI3321). I also supervise lab projects undertaken by final year undergraduate & MSc students.
I regularly visit primary schools in Cardiff and the surrounding area with the CITER engagement team. In addition, I am involved with Citer @ Learn About Life and @ Science In Health Live, Cardiff.
My research interests encompass three areas of cartilage and bone biology, the roles of inflammatory cytokine signalling and mechanical load in joint degeneration and cartilage repair strategies.
At the start of my post-doctoral research career, to identify genes involved in the onset of osteoarthritis (OA), I investigated chondrocyte gene expression in the Dunkin Hartley guinea pig model of OA. This species develops a spontaneous medial compartment knee OA that is similar in progression to human OA of the knee. Using the RNA fingerprinting technique of differential display, I showed that PACT, the protein activator of the interferon-inducible protein kinase, PKR is up-regulated in the medial cartilage. Since identifying the presence of this novel signalling pathway in osteoarthritic cartilage, I have shown that this pathway can be induced by the pro-inflammatory cytokines, TNF-α, IL-1 and oncostatin M as well as the sphingolipid second messenger, ceramide. I currently work within the Arthritis Research (UK) Biomechanics and Bioengineering Centre investigating the role of the PKR stress signalling pathway in inflammatory and mechanically induced joint degeneration. This work is investigating whether over-activation of PKR with concomitant increases in ER stress, predisposes to degenerative joint disease. I have shown that loss of the endogenous inhibitor of PKR, P58IPK results in joint degeneration which is the first study to reveal a critical role for PKR in bony changes underlying the pathogenesis of joint degeneration. To take this research forward, we have developed a number of models of osteoarthritis here in Cardiff and are currently investigating the role of a specific inflammatory signalling pathways in the onset and progression of joint degeneration with a view to developing new targets for disease treatment.
I have also worked on an EU funded project on Ageing of the ECM. This study was part of the EU 5th framework and investigated changes in tendon extracellular matrix with age. An ageing colony of C57/Blk6 mice was established and biochemical changes in the Achilles tendon were investigated. Significant changes in the collagenous matrix as well as alterations in matrix turnover were key findings of the study.
Tissue engineering and repair expertise
I am also interested in why cartilage repair tissue does not integrate well with the surrounding host cartilage. Significant chondrocyte death occurs when cartilage is wounded or cut which we believe is a major inhibitory factor to successful cartilage repair. Our studies showed that increasing the number of viable chondrocytes at the wound edge significantly improves tissue integration. We are also investigating whether Pulsed Low Intensity Ultrasound can be used as a therapy to promote tissue integration.
Company of Biologists Scientific Meeting grant 2016 (£2500)
Biochemical Society Small Meetings Grant 2016 (£500)
CITER travel bursary 2016 (£530)
Company of Biologists Scientific Meeting grant 2015 (£2000)
CITER undergraduate student summer placement 2015 (£1440)
CUROP summer placement 2015 (£1440)
Arthritis Research Campaign 2004 –2006 (£81227)
Arthritis Research Campaign 2002 –2004 (£92149)
Henry Smith's Charity 2000 - 2001 (£46266)
- Prof Ladiges and Dr John Morton (Dept Comparative Medicine, University of Washington) – P58IPK knockout studies
- Dr Andrew Harrison (Bioventus) – Cartilage repair strategies
- Dr D J Mason, Dr EJ Blain & Prof. Vic Duance (School of Biosciences)
- Dr Bronwen Evans, Dr Anwen Williams & Prof. Simon Jones (School of Medicine)