Born in Greece, Professor Andriana Margariti dreamt of working in medicine ever since she was a child. She read medical books from a young age and became fascinated with the idea of being able to develop treatments for people suffering from various diseases. She followed her dream to become a scientist moving to London to study at King’s College.
Her research into stem cells set her career path, as she realised how diverse and useful they were through their ability to develop into many different cell types. Her PhD was based on stem cells and cardiovascular medicine (study of the heart) and when she moved to Northern Ireland in 2013 to lecture at Queen’s University Belfast, she set up a group looking into the links between vascular disease (affecting blood vessels) and diabetes. Assisted by funding from the British Heart Foundation (BHF), Medical Research Council, Department of the Economy NI, and awarded a BBSRC New Investigator prize, Professor Margariti and her team were the first in the world to establish that the gene QKI-7 is what causes cardiovascular disease in diabetics. Professor Margariti is married to Edwin and has a son called Raphael.
Professor Margariti and her team, working at the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine of Queen’s University Belfast at Belfast City Hospital have developed a way of creating millions of stem cells in a laboratory using only a drop of a patient’s blood. They have generated disease-specific models using human cells. This allows the team to investigate a multitude of drugs without having to test directly on the patient. Previously such testing would have involved taking large amounts of blood and skin biopsies, a long and potentially risky process.
Stem cells are vitally important as they can repair damaged cells. This could revolutionise treatment for diabetics, not only for their heart conditions but other diabetes related issues such as loss of sight and amputations. Although this study focuses on diabetes, this work could be applied to the treatment of organs in the body such as the kidneys or liver; transforming the lives of those patients and the future of healthcare in these areas.
Watch the video below to learn more!