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Zahra Aboukhalil

BSc (Hons); ARCS; MRes

DPhil Student

I am a DPhil (PhD) student in Prof Paresh Vyas’ lab in the MRC Molecular Haematology Unit at the WIMM. My work focusses on the characterisation of the normal haematopoietic progenitors and their relationship with leukaemia.

Working closely with two post-doctoral researchers in the lab, Bilyana Stoilova and Dimitris Karamitros, we have carried out an extensive study of the lympho-myeloid progenitors in humans. These populations are of considerable interest because they make key cell fate decsions regarding differentiation into the lymphoid and myeloid lineages. Furthermore, we have shown that in 80% of primary acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) cases, experimental leukaemic stem cell (LSC) function resides in these immunophenotypic populations1.

Through a short term fellowship with the Computational Genomics Analysis and Training (CGAT) group, I have compared and contrasted the gene expression profiles of the LSC in AML with normal progenitors. My ultimate aim is to identify mechanistic targets within the LSC that may be targetted to abrogate the leukaemic phenotype.

In addition to my research, I also represent my peers as a WIMM and RDM student representative and am actively involved in public engagement, including volunteering at the MRC Science Festival.

1. Goardon, N. et al. Coexistence of LMPP-like and GMP-like leukemia stem cells in acute myeloid leukemia. Cancer Cell 19, 138–52 (2011).