Tadion Rideal Prize Winner Announced

Bezapic3The Tadion Rideal Prize has been awarded to Dr Chibeza Agley, from the Centre of Human & Aerospace Physiological Sciences (CHAPS), for his thesis titled: ‘Assessment of cell fate and the role of Wnt-β-catenin signalling in human primary skeletal muscle-derived cells’. The thesis was carried out under the supervision of Professor Steve Harridge and Professor Phillipa Francis-West.

“For my doctoral research at King’s College London, I took on the problem of adult human muscle stem cell multilineage potential (i.e. the ability of a stem cell to give rise to more than one cell type), which had been a hotly debated topic in the field for many years.

When I began my research a popular idea in the area was that the endogenous population of stem cells in muscle (known as satellite cells) go haywire in ageing and disease and start turning into fat and connective tissue, an occurrence which drastically impairs muscle function and regeneration. In stark contrast to this however, I found that human muscle stem cells consistently resisted every attempt to convert them into another cell type. Instead, I discovered that another population of muscle-resident cells, known as fibroblasts, were the true culprits and could be easily encouraged to become fat filled adipocytes. My work offered a cell type and a potential stimulus (circulating fatty acids) for the fibro-fatty muscle degeneration which is a hallmark of neuromuscular disease and old age.

It was extremely gratifying to publish my findings and share this new knowledge with other researchers and clinicians. I was truly honoured to receive news that I had been awarded the prestigious Tadion Rideal Prize. I am overjoyed that my research was chosen and am extremely grateful for the accolade. I am eternally indebted to the incredible researchers and staff at the Centre for Human and Aerospace Physiological Sciences (CHAPS) at King’s, where I completed my work, for giving me the support and encouragement to develop both as a scientist and a person.

Since completing my PhD I have left London and headed to Cambridge University to work with Dr. Kevin Chalut and Dr. José Silva at the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute as a post-doctoral researcher. At Cambridge I am trying to understand the biophysical and molecular regulation of pluripotency and the amazing phenomenon of cellular reprogramming.”

On selecting a winner for this year’s award, Professor Vaughan Robinson, Director of the Graduate School, who chaired the assessment panel for the award, said that he was impressed by feedback from the examiners:

‘The thesis was passed with no corrections and with the external examiner commenting that it “seems to be a really excellent thesis and a real addition to our knowledge in this area.” The final report on the examination and thesis agreed that the “candidate defended his work in an exemplary fashion and that his performance and the quality of the thesis was amongst the best either of us had examined.”

His research has already led to three papers with him as first author and two other joint authored papers and his conference papers have always been well received.

The Tadion Rideal prize has been awarded annually to a PhD student who has carried out outstanding doctoral research in the area of molecular science. The £1,000 award was created in 1983 by Dr J Tadion to commemorate his association with the late Sir Eric Rideal FRS of King’s.