Dr. Fiona Lewis completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Liverpool (Anatomy and Human Biology) and obtained her PhD at the UK Centre for Tissue Engineering, University of Liverpool. Subsequently Fiona completed her post-doctoral research at the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London. She recently joined the Centre for Microvascular Research at the WHRI as a lecturer in myocardial repair and regeneration. Fiona is now establishing her own research group to investigate the effect of ageing on induced pluripotent stem cells regenerative potential in cardiovascular disease.
Summary of Research
Cardiovascular disease is one of the main causes of death in the UK and worldwide. At present no widely available, restorative option exists therefore new strategies are required to identify a safe and efficient way of treating heart failure. In recent years, stem cells have emerged as a potentially valuable tool for repair of damaged hearts and a breakthrough discovery in 2006 identified that stem cells could be generated from a patient’s own skin cells. To date, these patient-specific cells, termed induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have been successfully generated from different aged patients however evidence suggests that iPSCs are generated from ‘aged’ cells at lower efficiency and may have deteriorated functions making them unsuitable for clinical application.
Fiona’s research focuses on understanding the effect of ageing on stem cell regenerative potential for cardiac repair and regeneration, she is currently pursuing two major research themes.
1. Influence of donor age/disease on iPSC potential
Aging is determined not only by chronological age but also by health condition therefore rigorous testing of cells from ‘aged’ cardiovascular disease patients both before, during and after conversion to an iPSC phenotype will provide a clear indication on their suitability for clinical application. Identification of key ‘ageing’ signatures and their association with cellular reprogramming will enable pre-screening of donor cells both before and after iPSC conversion.
2. Exosomes for cardiac repair and regeneration
In recent years, exosomes have been identified as both biomarkers and therapeutic agents with evidence to suggest that they exert protective effects by transferring their contents to rescue injured neighbouring cells by regulating apoptosis, inflammation, fibrosis, and angiogenesis. A therapeutic source of exosomes for the treatment of cardiovascular disease has yet to be identified. To address this, we will isolate and screen iPSC-derived exosomes in an attempt to identify a source of exosomes capable of mediating cardiac repair.
- Young Investigator Award for best poster presentation at the Biomedical Basis of Elite Performance - Nottingham, UK (March 2016)
- Young Investigator Award for best oral presentation at the 50th International Congress of European Society for Surgical Research - Liverpool, UK (June 2015)
- Oral Presentation Award at the Alternative Muscle Club Meeting - London, UK (July 2016)
- 6th Annual Alliance for Healthy Aging Conference Travel Award - Newcastle UK (October 2015)
Agley CC*, Lewis FC*, Jaka O, Lazarus NR, Velloso C, Ellison-Hughes GM, Francis-West P, Harridge SDR *joint first author (2017). Active GSK3β and an intact beta-Catenin TCF complex are essential for the terminal differentiation of human myogenic progenitor cells. Sci. Rep; 7(1):13189.
Vicinanza C, Aquila I, Scalise M, Cristiano F, Marino F, Cianflone E, Mancuso T, Sacco W, Lewis FC, Couch L, Shone V, Torella A, Smith A, Terracciano C, Britti D, Veltri P, Indolfi C, Nadal-Ginard B, Ellison-Hughes GM, Torella D (2017). Adult Cardiac Stem Cells are Multipotent and Robustly Myogenic: c-kit Expression is Necessary but not Sufficient for their Identification. Cell Death Differ. (Epub ahead of print)
- Lewis FC, Henning BJ, Shone V, et al. (2017). Transplantation of Allogeneic PW1pos/Pax7neg Interstitial Cells (PICs) Enhance Endogenous Repair of Injured Porcine Skeletal Muscle. JACC Basic Transl. Sci. (In press)
- Agley CC*, Lewis FC*, Jaka O, et al. *joint first author (2017). Active GSK3β and an intact beta-Catenin TCF complex are essential for the terminal differentiation of human myogenic progenitor cells. Sci. Rep. (In press)
- Henning BJ, Lewis FC, Shone V, et al. (2017). Skeletal muscle-derived interstitial progenitor cells (PICs) display stem cell properties, being clonogenic, self-renewing and multi-potent in vitro and in vivo. Stem Cell Res. Ther. 8:158
- Smith AJ, Lewis FC, Aquila I, et al. (2014). Isolation and characterisation of resident endogenous c-kit-positive cardiac stem cells (eCSCs) from the adult mouse and rat heart. Nat. Protoc. 7: 1662-16681
- Lewis FC, Henning BJ, Marazzi G, et al. (2014). Porcine skeletal muscle-derived multipotent PW1pos/Pax7neg Interstitial Cells: Isolation, characterization and long-term culture. Stem Cells Transl. Med. 3:1-11
- Torella D, Ellison GM, Torella M, et al. (2014). Carbonic Anhydrases Activation is Associated with Worsened Pathologic Remodeling in Human Ischemic Diabetic Cardiomyopathy. J. Am. Heart Assoc. 3: e000434
- Bryan N, Lewis FC, Stanley C, et al. (2013). Evaluation of a Novel Non-Destructive Catch and Release Technology for Harvesting Autologous Adult Stem Cells. PLOS ONE. 8: e53933
- Lewis FC, Bryan N, Hunt JA. (2012). A Feeder-Free, Human Plasma-Derived Hydrogel for Maintenance of a Human Embryonic Stem Cell Phenotype In Vitro. Cell Regeneration. 1:6