Our Research Panel, along with stringent peer review, approve projects for funding. The range of research is impressive, from clinical trials in common orthopaedic problems to molecular biology approaches to less common forms of muscular dystrophy and gait analysis in children with cerebral palsy. All well designed studies on conditions affecting patients attending our hospital.
An example of the Institute working closely with the RJAH Hospital to take forward important initiatives includes the OsCell Cell Therapy Unit.
We continue to provide funding for the Oscell Cell Tharapy Unit, as we have done for more than twenty years in order to provide cells for clinical trials into repair of damaged joint cartilage.
The current ongoing ASCOT Study is looking at Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation (ACI), a technique used to help patients with an articular cartilage defect, something that can impact younger people in their 20s and 30s.
The procedure sees a sample of cartilage removed from the patient’s knee from which their own cells are then grown in a laboratory.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) concluded the evidence to be enough to approve the technique for wider use on the NHS. We are the only site in the UK currently able to offer ACI.
Read more about Cell Therapies
To view the Orthopaedic Institute’s latest news, please click below:
The Orthopaedic Institute has funded several new projects with the Research Panel meet on a quarterly basis to review projects based on time, available resources and costings.
Examples of departments/projects considered for funding over the last year include:
Rheumatology & Metabolic Medicine
- Mesenchymal Stem Cell-Derived Extracellular Vesicles Attenuate Disease Severity in Inflammatory Arthritis
- The In Vitro effect of Syndecan-3 Gene Knockout on Bone Marrow derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells’ Properties (Preclinical Studies)
- Uncovering the role of Proteoglycans in Exosome Biogenesis for improved Regenerative Medicine Therapies
- Mesenchymal Stem Cell-Derived Extracellular Vesicles as Therapeutic Agents for Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Prediction of Clinical Outcome Following Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation by Magnetic Resonance Imaging
- Biomarker Discovery in Orthopaedics: Matching patients to the best treatment
- Transcriptome analysis of the Umbilical Cord-Mesenchymal Stromal Cells’ Therapeutic response to Inflammation, with a view to banking the most potent Cells for Allogeneic Therapy
- Biological, Physical and Psychosocial factors that affect the health of the Human Knee
- Can Cells from Umbilical Cords be used to treat patients with Osteoarthritis? Two Preclinical Studies
- The suitability of Pre-Operative Magnetic Resonance Imaging in predicting accurate Cartilage Defect Sizes for Treatment with Cell Therapy
- Cell-Based Meniscus Tissue Engineering: Comparing Meniscus Cells, Chondrocytes, Bmscs And Co-Cultures on Synthetic Scaffolds
- Spontaneous Healing of Articular Cartilage (Sharc)
- Human Chondrocytes expanded in the Quantum® Hollow-Fibre Bioreactor System for the first time
- Biomarker discovery and use in Spinal Cord Injury Patients: Identifying new treatment targets and markers for Predicting Clinical Outcome
- Pulsed Magnetic Stimulation-Managing Spasticity in Spinal Cord Injury (Osstim)
- Developing a Cell Therapy delivery system for Chronic Wounds
- Are Primary Cilia involved in degeneration of the Intervertebral Disc?
The Clinical Research Team:
Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist
Andrea is a Chartered Physiotherapist, working in the field of Orthopaedics and Sports Injuries. She has held senior positions both within the NHS and the private sector and continues to work with recreational, professional and semi-professional athletes on and off field the field of play. This has involved travelling to Europe to provide physiotherapy cover during the UEFA Champion’s League Cup.
Andrea is active in research and is one of a small number of physios to have achieved a PhD, from Exeter University, in Health and Sport Sciences. She has published her research in a number of peer reviewed journals and presented internationally. She has written many evidence based rehabilitation guides, which are in used internationally in physiotherapy practice.
Currently, she is employed as a Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist with the Knee and Sports Injury Firm at RJAH.
Her main area of interest is effective rehabilitation following knee injuries.
Director of Research
Mr Andrew Roberts joined RJAH in 1992 and has held the position of Director of Research a couple of times. This recent occupation of the role started in 2013. He is also a Consultant Children’s Orthopaedic Surgeon, the Clinical Chair for Support Services Chief, the Clinical Information Officer and the Project Lead for the Marches Integrated Care Record Shropshire Telford & Wrekin STP.
Until recently he was Medical Director ORLAU.
Barbara qualified as a registered general nurse and has spent much of her working life in and around orthopaedics. She became involved in clinical research in 2009 when she worked on a Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy study on a temporary basis. This experience led to the permanent role Barbara has now. Barbara’s main role is the management and coordination of the ASCOT study (An evaluation of autologous transplantation of articular chondrocytes and/or bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells to repair chondral/osteochondral lesions of the knee.) however she has recently been involved in paediatric Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy studies again.
Study Support Officer
Previous roles include:
Working with acute Stroke patients (mood and cognitive assessment) NHS research.
Working in acute Stroke trials and quality of life study for patients with MS /MND.
I am currently working on Paediatric and Foot & Ankle studies.
Claire qualified as registered general nurse in 1991 and joined RJAH in 2009 as part of the Menzies Day Surgery Unit team. She remained there until moving to the Research dept. in 2016 and is involved in a wide range of studies from rheumatology to cell therapy to rotator cuff repair. A true generic research nurse.
Research Governance Officer
MSc in Occupational and Organisational Psychology
BSc (Joint Hons) Psychology and Management
Previous roles include:
Senior Human Factors Consultant planning, organising and running applied psychology Trials in military research for QinetiQ
Member of Outpatient Access Team at RJAH
I currently facilitate ongoing governance for all the department’s studies including our transfer to the EDGE Clinical Research Tool.
Lead Research Nurse
BSc (Hons) Nursing
Previous roles include:
Social Care researcher Welsh Assembly, Carers strategy and interim Wanless report.
Lecturer Adult nursing Bangor University.
Lecturer post graduate Orthopaedics Staffordshire University.
Research nurse (bank nurse role) RJAH.
I am currently Project manager for Rheumatology, metabolic, spinal injuries and bone tumour studies.
In addition, my role includes managing the clinical team of both nurses and physiotherapists and assisting them in their co -ordination of studies including competency in their research role.
I have an interest in qualitative and end of life research.
Qualified as a Chartered Physiotherapist in 1994.
Worked in NHS initially, as well as sports teams, then in Australia.
Masters in Sports Physiotherapy 2004.
Worked in Elite Sport for 15 years more specifically with the British Gymnastic Team and attended Major Games Events, highlight being London 2012 Olympics.
During this time I also worked in private practice.
In the last 4 years I have been working as a Research Physiotherapist in the Research Department at RJAH as well as the last 3 years as a Specialist Physiotherapist in Musculoskeletal Orthopaedics in interface clinics in SOOS. Lead for Research and Audit in SOOS.
I am passionate about integrating Research into practice to improve patient care.
The role of the administrator is key to keeping the dept. functioning by:
- Promoting Research via Social Media
- Ordering and managing Office Supplies
- Co-ordinating clinical staff
- Booking research pt. appointments
- Uploading data to study database and pt. record
- Booking clinical space in outpatients dept.
- Transcribing meetings
- General administrative duties
Dr Johanna Wales
Deputy Research Manager
PhD Cardiovascular Molecular Medicine
BSc (Hons) Anatomy and Cell Biology
Previous roles include:
Post-doctoral research associate at Sheffield University researching drug-eluting coronary stents.
Clinical research coordinator at Papworth Hospital running clinical trials in Cardiovascular anaesthetic and critical care.
I am currently working on randomised controlled trials of cell therapies for knee cartilage defects, and platelet-rich plasma in tennis elbow. I have expertise in clinical trials of investigational medicinal products (CTIMPS) and specifically advanced therapies.
Research Project Manager
BSc (Hons) Pharmacology
Previous roles include:
Product Development Scientist in the Biopharmaceutical industry.
Senior Forensic DNA Analyst for the former Government Agency, The Forensic Science Service in London.
Research Governance Facilitator at RJAH.
I am currently working on Arthroplasty and Upper Limb studies.
Raj is a member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists and joined the research dept. team on a part-time basis enabling him to continue practicing clinically at RJAH. This dual role works well as Raj is able to influence and develop a research interest in the wider clinical environment which helps with the delivery of research within the routine NHS service. In his clinical role Raj has worked in various specialities including trauma and orthopaedics, MSK outpatients, spinal injuries, pain management, rheumatology and paediatrics. On a research note, Raj is currently working on upper limb and arthroplasty studies.
Research Project Manager
MSc and Dip IC in Medical Ethics
BTh (Hons) Oxon
Previous roles include:
Vice chair of an NHS Research Ethics Committee in Oxford
Chair and Independent Ethics Advisor on GENODISC Advisory Committee (multinational study funded by EU)
Research Co-ordinator and Medical Ethicist, St Luke’s Radiology, Oxford/Honorary Contract Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre NHS Trust, Oxford
I am currently working on Arthroplasty, anaesthetic, Foot & ankle and Spine studies
Dr Sarah Turner
Research Project Manager
PhD in Biomedical Engineering
BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science
Previous roles include:
Post-doctoral research associate in Spinal Studies at the University Keele laboratories at RJAH investigating novel treatments for disc degeneration.
I am currently working on Paediatric, Neuromuscular disorder, Foot & Ankle and Spinal disorder studies
Research Dept. Manager
Teresa Joined the Trust in 1994 as a Study Co-ordinator for Dr Michael Davie in The Charles Salt Centre, managing numerous clinical trials looking at treatments for osteoporosis and bone health. Previous to this, Teresa also worked in the commercial sector monitoring clinical trials, for an animal health company and for a company making foil dishes! In 2009, she was appointed Research Governance Officer for the Trust as the clinical research landscape in the NHS changed and the National Institute of Health Research Clinical Research Networks streamlined individual processes into the UK wide governance and delivery process it is today.
Tessa is a member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists and joined the research dept. in 2015. Previous to this she was the arthroplasty physiotherapy practitioner and although hip and knee arthroplasty remains her main interest, Tessa is also involved in upper limb and general MSK studies.
After Theresa gained her BSc (hons) Nursing (RGN) in Bristol, she has held a number of roles in orthopaedic day surgery and critical care. She joined RJAH in 2007 and the research dept. in 2016. Theresa says: “As a research nurse and clinical member of the research dept. I provide clinical input to all studies in all specialities, however at the moment I am the coordinator for studies in paediatrics and infection control.
The Scientist Team:
Dr Charlotte Hulme
Dr Charlotte Hulme is a Research Associate within the School of Pharmacy and Bioengineering at Keele University based at the RJAH Hospital. She received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Manchester in 2011, remaining at Manchester Uni. to undertake her MRC and Manchester Alumni Award funded PhD studentship, investigating placental dysfunction in pregnancies complicated by Diabetes mellitus. In 2015 she worked on the identification of molecules (called biomarkers) that can be used to predict the outcome neurology of patients with spinal cord injury (SCI). Since then, she has worked on several biomarker projects for orthopaedics (SCI and osteoarthritis (OA) and its’ treatments) and on developing new/optimising existing cell therapies for OA.
Charlotte applies skillsets she developed during her PhD studies to perform a highly specialised technique called proteomics to identify completely novel biomarkers to allow us to better understand the biology underlying patient recovery or their response to surgical interventions and is also assessing the potential of human juvenile chondrocytes (cartilage cells) for use in cell therapies to treat cartilage damage/early-O. Dr Hulme enjoys sharing her work at conferences, including presenting her work to policymakers in the House of Commons.
In her free time Charlotte enjoys socialising , going to music concerts, renovating her home and garden and spending time with her two daughters and their dog.
Dr Claire Mennan
I was awarded an MSc in Biochemical Engineering in 2003, a PGCE in 2005 and finally my PhD in Biological sciences at The University of Birmingham in 2008, where I worked in research until 2011. I joined RJAH in August 2011 where I have been employed as a Research Associate for the Versus Arthritis Tissue Engineering Centre.
My research interests are based on using allogeneic cells to treat osteoarthritis (OA). Specifically specialised cells (Mesenchymal Stromal Cells) isolated from human umbilical cords with a focus on their anti inflammatory properties and how they help to heal cartilage defects and OA. I also work on the current clinical trial which looks at using the patients own cartilage cells, bone marrow cells or a combination of the two to treat OA. We hope that by looking at a sister population of patients cells in this trial that we will be able to find the most potent cells for therapy in the future.
Gabriel Mateus Bernardo Harrington
I completed my BSc in Biological Sciences in 2016 at Lancaster University. Following this I spent 6 months doing a project testing next-generation cochlea implants at the Bionics Institute in Melbourne, Australia. I started my PhD at Keele University in October 2018 and am due to finish in 2021. My project title is “Exploring the serum proteome of spinal cord injured patients: Identifying prognostic biomarkers and new treatment targets”.
My research interests surround:
- Prognostic modelling
- Reproducible research
You’d never know from the above but I’m a bit of nerd and enjoy coding, experimenting with Linux and computer science in general.
Dr Heidi Fuller
Senior Lecturer in Medical Science
Dr Heidi Fuller is a senior lecturer at Keele University and research group leader within the Wolfson Centre for Inherited Neuromuscular Disease at RJAH Orthopaedic Hospital. Dr Fuller received her first degree in Biomolecular Science at the University of Wales, Bangor, and during her second year was awarded a North West Wales NHS-funded research scholarship. She then undertook an industry-sponsored PhD studentship at the University of Wales, North East Wales Institute, under the supervision of Professor Glenn Morris.
Dr Fuller researches several of the most severe muscle-wasting diseases including muscular dystrophy, and the childhood form of motor neuron disease, spinal muscular atrophy. By using cutting-edge proteomics and bioinformatics tools with biochemical approaches, her team aim to understand disease mechanisms and to identify novel proteins and pathways that can be modulated by drug treatment. To find out more please visit; https://www.keele.ac.uk/pharmacy-bioengineering/ourpeople/heidifuller/
Outside of work, Heidi is usually found in wellies with either a pack of rescued greyhounds or a metal detector and spade! As a member of the Historical Search Society, Mold, Heidi has a keen interest in metal detecting to un-earth, research and document the past.
Dr Helen McCarthy
I began my career at the RJAH in 2006 as a Research Assistant prior to embarking on my PhD studies in the Charles Salt Centre for Metabolic Research. I was awarded a PhD from the University of Chester in 2011. I have since been employed by Keele University as a Research Associate, based in the Centre for Spinal Studies and Cartilage Research group at RJAH. I am also a visiting lecturer for University Centre Shrewsbury.
My research interests revolve around the biology & pathology of musculoskeletal disorders:
- Developing and delivering cell-based therapies for the repair of musculoskeletal tissues, both autologous and allogeneic
- Assessing the quality of repair tissue formed following cell-based therapies of articular cartilage, including studying the production and expression of extracellular matrix components and associated cellular signalling pathways
- The role of the subchondral bone in osteoarthritis
Outside of the laboratory I am a busy mum of two girls, a Community Governor for our local village school, Chair of Friends of Holt School PTA and a volunteer Community First Responder with the Welsh Ambulance Service!
I was awarded a MD in Clinical Medicine from Dalian Medical University in 2016. I got an PhD offer from Keele University in Cell and Tissue Engineering in 2017. Since then I started my research work as a PhD student at the RJAH and currently in my final year of PhD.
My research interests are meniscus injuries, focussing on:
- Understanding meniscus degeneration
- Enhancing meniscus tissue repair
- Developing cell-based meniscus therapies
Beyond the lab work, I am also a big basketball fan. One of the reason I looked into meniscus repair is I injured my own meniscus twice while playing basketball. Now I am trying to cure myself!
Dr Karina Wright
Senior Lecturer/Research Fellow
I commenced my studies at the RJAH in 2005, and in 2009, was awarded a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Keele University. Since then I have been employed as a Lecturer/Research Fellow/Research Associate at the RJAH and am also the current Keele University Stakeholder Governor for the hospital.
My research interests are musculoskeletal injuries, spinal cord injuries and pressure sores, focussing on:
- Understanding their biology and pathology
- Improving their diagnosis and prognosis
- Developing and delivering cell-based therapies
Outside of the laboratory I am a busy mum of four, life doesn’t allow for any other interests!
I completed a 2-year Laboratory based apprenticeship at AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals in 2015. Followed by undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science at Keele University with summer placements at two contract research organisations. After graduating I was employed by a genetic toxicology contract research organisation.
I am currently a PhD student based within Keele, Life Science and RJAH research group. The project involves analysing RNA sequencing data from clinical trial patients who have undergone cell-based therapies to treat cartilage defects. I am also a demonstrator in the undergraduate biochemistry laboratory practical session at Keele and I have just become the PGR health and safety representative for the Life Science building at Keele.
I am also a keen cake baker and eater!
I studied an undergradate course in occupational therapy in Cork, Ireland. After graduating I moved to the UK and worked as an occupational therapist for one year. Then I realised I would prefer to work in science and an opportunity came up to do a Master’s degree at the University of Chester. I studied Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine and worked on a research project investing how epilepsy drugs affect osteoblasts (bone forming cells). I enjoyed research and decided to continue with education and do a PhD at Keele university.
My current project involves studying extracellular vesicles from umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells. I’m looking to see if these extracellular vesicles contain anti-inflammatory properties for the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I’m analysing the protein and miRNA content of these vesicles and I’m also going to culture them with blood from patients with rheumatoid arthritis to see if these vesicles can dampen the over-active and pro-inflammatory responses seen in rheumatoid arthritis.
I really enjoy running in my spare time and I’m a member of Oswestry Olympians running club. I also enjoy baking, although I’m a bit of a rookie and most creations look very different from the picture. I love watching rugby and I’m a very passionate supporter of the Irish and Munster rugby teams. I’m an aspiring globe trotter and want to travel to as many countries as possible but haven’t got near to achieving that dream yet.
Dr Marit Naomi Dugard
Consenting Research Officer
Dr Naomi Dugard is a Post Doctoral Researcher with a specialist interest in bone health and disease and the preservation of cartilage, with previous experience including the development and application of novel markers of bone resorption and clinical research investigating skeletal health in the ageing population.
Naomi received her first degree in Microbiology from The University of Liverpool, before studying for her PhD at the Charles Salt Centre, RJAH Hospital in Oswestry researching bone loss associated with metabolic diseases. She continued her post-doctoral research experience at the Charles Salt Centre managing the study titled “A Bio-assay for inhibitors of osteoclastogenesis in serum” before moving onto a research project investigating fractures and peripheral bone mineral density in a population of women >50yr in a community setting.
In 2010, Naomi joined a team of scientists at the RJAH working in the field of Regenerative Medicine. Here she managed the “REACT Study” for five years, investigating the long-term effectiveness and potential adverse effects of Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation (ACI) for the treatment of cartilage defects.
Naomi is currently employed as a Consenting Research Officer at RJAH as one of the main interfaces between the research staff, hospital clinicians, clinic staff and patients attending pre-operative clinics at the hospital.
Naomi’s interests include many family orientated outdoor activities. Particular favourites are camping and walking in the hills of North Wales and the Lake District.
I hold a Masters degree in Systems Engineering, I have 25 years I.T. experience including 10 running my own business specialising in Data Migration and Test Management. Since 2016 I have been employed by the University of Keele as a Data Analyst at the RJAH.
My role involves maintenance and development of the OsCell database and providing data extracts and information for the Researchers and PhD students.
Outside of work I enjoy Golf, Pub Quizzes and following the Welsh Rugby team.
Dr Oksana Kehoe
Head of Rheumatology Research
I am a Lecturer in Inflammation Biology at the Keele School of Medicine and Head of Rheumatology Research laboratory in the Robert Jones & Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital at Oswestry. I was awarded an MSc in Immunology from the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine. My PhD in Biochemistry was awarded by the RE Kavetsky Institute of Experimental Pathology, Oncology and Radiobiology of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Kyiv.
In my spare time, I enjoy learning new languages, reading and visiting new places. I am a Yoga/Pilates enthusiast.
Achieving a degree in Biomedical Science from the University of Sheffield in 2017, I was accepted into a DCT programme between Keele, Loughborough and Nottingham Universities in the field of Regenerative Medicine. This education has built the foundation of my research knowledge, which includes research items such as exploring the rate of vesicular transport, characterising cell behaviour on synthetic polymer brush surfaces and the characterisation of collagen VI from human cartilage.
Now undertaking my PhD as part of the Rheumatology Research Group. Here, I am exploring extracellular vesicles (EVs), small lipid-bound molecules that are released from cells, that typically govern cell-cell signalling in their natural capacity.
In my spare time, I enjoy baking and sitting down with the resulting baked goods with a cup of tea and a good book. After too many baked goods, I like to go swimming, and am currently teaching myself to play the ukulele.
Dr Sharon Owen
Dr Sharon Owen is a Research Associate. After starting a family, she returned to education and obtained a BSc in Biochemistry from Liverpool University. In 1997, she embarked on a PhD based in the Charles Salt Centre at the RJAH, under the supervision of Dr Christopher Sharp investigating the biomechanical and biochemical properties of osteoarthritic bone.
Following completion of her PhD Sharon started working on a project investigating the stress response of cells from the intervertebral disc and has been involved in various projects based in the Spinal Studies group with Prof Sally Roberts. In 2014, Sharon was awarded a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship enabling her to learn specific microscope techniques to investigate the structural integrity of the human intervertebral disc/vertebral body junction.
Currently, Sharon is working with Dr Heidi Fuller investigating the proteomic profile of cells from different clinical types of Spinal Muscular Atrophy patients.
Sharon has lived in the Oswestry area all her life, and when not at work enjoys spending time with her family, although mostly this time is spent travelling to various sporting venues for football, cricket or tennis games!
I graduated with a degree in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Plymouth in 2015 and then started work as a research assistant at the Institute of Science and Technology in Medicine, Keele University. I started my PhD with Keele University in 2016 which is funded by the Orthopaedic Institute and based at the RJAH Hospital. The main focus of my research is on the interaction between the cartilage and bone in the knee joint, and how this relationship may contribute to the onset of osteoarthritis, and also how it could affect the success of cartilage repair.
Another part of my research has been focused on characterising the relationship between activity levels and knee function, and how a patient’s outlook can influence this relationship. Following a successful pilot study, we have been granted ethical approval to use wearable activity trackers and app-based knee function scoring to investigate this further.
I am currently in the process of writing up my thesis and will then be starting work back in the laboratory, looking to build on some of the findings from my PhD.
In my spare time I am an average (but avid) powerlifter and a keen sportsman, dabbling in tennis, rugby, hockey and lacrosse. If my research career takes a turn for the worse, I may be able to find employment with the circus as I can juggle and ride a unicycle (but not at the same time, yet!).