Dr Kate Irvine, the first ever recipient of our Pauline Hall Fellowship shares what she is doing now.
Dr Kate Irvine spends her days studying cells – specifically a type of white blood cell called a macrophage that is an important part of our immune system.
“These cells are really interesting. They can be destructive and promote inflammation – but they can also be a force for good and help to heal tissue,” she says.
Her work could lead to important new developments for the treatment of liver disease.
For example, Kate and her team are looking at whether they can use macrophages to reverse liver fibrosis – with promising results in the lab. This could lead to new treatments for people with liver damage, or to making donated livers more suitable for transplants.
Another project is looking at whether controlling bacteria in the gut with over-the-counter diarrhoea tablets can reduce the risk of repeated infections in people with end-stage liver disease.
This work wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Liver Foundation.
“I had just started working in the area of chronic liver disease when I received the inaugural Pauline Hall Fellowship in 2012 from the Liver Foundation,” Kate says.
“The Fellowship was invaluable to me at a critical time in my career in liver research. It gave me three years ‘safety’ to develop my ideas and network in the field. I will be for ever grateful to Professor Pauline Hall and her family, the Liver Foundation and the Princess Alexandra Hospital Foundation who co-funded the Fellowship. It’s hard to say what I would be doing now had I not received it.”
While she works in a science lab most of the time, Kate believes it takes a team to improve outcomes for people with liver disease – especially since funds for research are scarce.
“Team science, where clinicians and scientists work together is the way of the future, to maximise research relevance and outcomes,” she says.
“I strongly believe in the value of excellent scientific research to generate new knowledge about what happens in the body when disease occurs, and to develop new medicines and treatments.
“But we also need health professionals and patients to help us understand the patients we are trying to help, and to make sure we are trying to solve problems that need solutions!”
One of Dr Irvine’s mentees, Dr Sahar Keshvari is the current Pauline Hall Fellow, ensuring that this work has a strong future, and our best and brightest minds stay focused on the liver.