This week we feature Mike Daniels, a PhD student who is looking at inflammation! Without further ado, here is his ‘Tuesday Feature’
Please explain your research for the layman in ten sentences or less.
I work on the Immune system and inflammation, which is basically a process where our body releases its troops – the immune cells, in order to fight infection caused by damage of bacterial infection. What I work on specifically is one particular component of this army and that’s called the inflammasome. What’s particularly interesting is that this guy, the inflammasome, actually causes more harm than good. What we’re trying to find out is exactly how this occurs and whether we can produce drugs which will inhibit this inflammasome and hopefully use this to treat inflammatory disease.
How could this benefit the person reading this blog?
The concept of this over active immune system is actually one that I’ve found really interesting. If we’ve got an immune system that is causing us harm, then how has that evolved? This is one of the questions that I would really love to answer. Regardless of that question, this over active immune system process, is involved in a huge number of diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, malaria, diabetes, cardio vascular disease – all of these disease have a huge involvement with an over active immune system.
If we can understand how this is happening and potentially find ways we can inhibit this response without causing damage to our own immune system, then hopefully we’ll be able to use drugs to treat these diseases.
How did you first get interested in inflammation?
I’ve always been interested in science and one thing that interested me was how drugs were used to treat and cure diseases, so I did pharmacology as an undergraduate. Whilst doing that I got interested in neuroscience and pain. One particular thing about pain is that you think of it as a neural process, but there’s a huge inflammatory component. As I realised this, I discovered that there’s a huge inflammatory component to almost anything you can think of and so on knowing that, I realised what better thing to do than inflammation itself.
Do you have any science heroes? Who inspired you?
I’m not really sure I was inspired by one particular scientist. I always liked the idea of the polymath. So a polymath is someone who is learned in basically everything. I did a school project once on Benjamin Franklin. He was not just a scientist, but he was an inventor, an author, a philosopher and he founded the most powerful country in the world. One really cool thing about Benjamin Franklin that I always liked was that he was one of those really cool types of scientist that just used to test stuff on himself. This is something that I’ve always thought was in days gone by, but in actual fact I had a meeting with someone recently who wanted to know whether or not something was involved in pain. Instead of doing any tests on animals or cells, he just bought it on the internet and injected it in himself to see if it caused any pain. As far as I know, he’s still alive and interestingly it didn’t cause pain. This is something I’ve always inspired to be, a scientist like that – a really cool scientist.
How has working in Manchester helped you?
The Faculty of Life science here at Manchester provided the perfect foundations for me to build a successful PhD. In terms of facilities I have the ability to go to any state of the art facility where I’ll have expert advice on experimental planning, the design and the execution of the experiment and even data analysis. The staff are really supportive and help you build your experiments, but at the same time, they’ll let you go and do your own thing. Also the whole ethos behind the faculty allows a kind of environment where it’s enjoyable to come into work and at the same time we can all still be focused enough to produce successful research. So yeah, thumbs up for FLS.
What do you do outside of work?
Outside of science, I like to get involved in a lot of sport. I play football, tennis, badminton, squash – anything I can really get my hands on, although all fairly badly. At the weekends, I like to get myself up a mountain somewhere and do a bit of climbing.