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Alba Rodriguez-Meira

DPhil, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine

Project: Single cell analysis of coding and non-coding RNAs during normal and malignant haematopoiesis

Alba Rodriguez-Meira started her career in biomedical research at the University of Salamanca, Spain, where she trained in Biotechnology and Molecular Biology during her BSc. She then moved to the UK to study an MRes in Cancer Biology at Imperial College London. She is currently a PhD Student in the Mead Lab at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford.

What’s your current research and how could it impact patients?

We are made of billions of cells. Sometimes, one of these cells acquires an error in its genetic code that makes it different, growing much faster than healthy cells and ultimately causing cancer. My research focuses on chasing back this single cell by understanding why its genetic error gave rise to cancer, more specifically, leukaemia. To achieve this I developed a technology which allowed me to read these errors in the genetic code of each individual leukaemic cell, distinguishing the healthy and cancerous ones with great precision, and at the same time, identifying which genes were active when those errors occurred. This technology allowed me to see and divide tumours at extremely high resolution, finding new, previously unidentified types of cancer cells. I am now studying a group of very aggressive leukemias for which there are no effective therapies, hoping to translate my findings into new therapeutic targets that would allow us to eliminate the cells that originated the disease, and ultimately, find the right treatment for each patient.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I start early in the lab, as it is usually the best time of the day to perform experiments. Then I always finish my day at least 2 hours later than I was expecting, usually because I’ve forgotten what time it is!

Any tips for future students?

Experiments usually work the second time you try them!