Prior to commencing my PhD I studied at the University of Sheffield both at undergraduate and MSc level. During my undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science (BSc) I was particularly interested in aspects of stem cell biology, developmental and molecular biology, and continued this interest further by undertaking an MSc in Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine. My MSc project was titled “Modelling vestibular ganglion neuron differentiation of hESC-derived otic neural progenitors” under the supervision of Professor Marcelo Rivolta. This project highlighted to me the usefulness of human pluripotent stem cells in research, not only in regenerative medicine but also in modelling human development and disease. My PhD project is now allowing me to combine this academic interest with another long-standing interest in programming to assess a potential novel transcript regulatory mechanism.
Transcripts containing introns in the 3’ untranslated region (3UIs) are generally considered to be non-functional and subject to degradation by the nonsense-mediated decay (NMD) pathway. However, the potential for 3UIs to be differentially retained or excised between different cellular contexts presents a potential regulatory mechanism by which alternative splicing can regulate transcript stability through the modulation of NMD and differential splicing of miRNA recognition elements or RNA binding protein binding motifs. As such, my project aims to study the regulatory potential of 3UIs using human pluripotent stem cells and cellular differentiation models to shed light on their potential implication in human development.