Dr Elise J Needham
I'm an Australian researcher, recently moved to England from the University of Sydney. In my spare time I enjoy playing netball, hiking, and practicing rowing to one day be worthy of the Fellows’ boat! I will pause my interest in snorkelling Sydney’s marine reserves and focus on exploring the treasures above ground in British museums and galleries. I didn’t bring my snorkel so I guess we will never know what swims below the ducks and carp in the ponds!
My main research interests are into the molecular basis of heart disease. My PhD was in Biochemistry at the University of Sydney. There, I measured the molecules that change in our muscles when we exercise, and how they differ in pre-diabetes. This allowed me to find molecules that are linked with sugar handling, providing potential targets for pre-diabetes. In a slight shift, I will bring my Biochemistry background to Cambridge’s Clinical School to bridge the gaps between genomics and biological mechanisms.
Specific differences in our DNA, called genetic variants, have been found to cause heart disease. We do not know how most genetic variants increase disease risk because many of these variants occur in DNA that lies outside of specific genes. However, recent developments enable us to overcome this challenge.
Each gene is the recipe to make a specific protein. Proteins are the functional “molecular machines” that perform biological roles and can be targeted by drugs. We can now directly measure the levels of more than 1,000 different proteins in donated blood samples. By determining the specific proteins that have altered levels due to disease-causing variants, we can start to understand how these variants are disrupting health. Understanding the affected proteins will provide new drug targets and methods to test for disease risk.