James Russell

A medical student from Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry has received an award of £1,000 from the Peninsula Medical Foundation to pursue a research project investigating neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2), as part of the INSPIRE scheme.

James Russell has just completed his second year studying medicine at Plymouth University.

His research project is focused on NF2 which is a hereditary syndrome that predisposes someone with the condition to tumours of the nervous system. The aim of the project is to identify the effect of a particular biochemical pathway that is suspected to be involved in tumour progression. Research at Plymouth into tumours which affect the nervous system and brain is recognised as world-leading.

James said:

“I have taken a particular interest in this topic throughout my second year, so I am certain that this will be a hugely enjoyable experience for me. I am also keen to make research an important part of my medical career. Working in a lab will therefore provide me with a unique insight into medical research and develop my knowledge and understanding of the research process.”

He added:

“I am grateful to the Peninsula Medical Foundation for providing me with this award, which will allow me to pursue my project.”

The INSPIRE scheme is led by the Academy of Medical Science and is funded by the Wellcome Trust. It aims to encourage medical and dental undergraduates to pursue scientific research.

David Parkinson is a Professor of Neuroscience at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry. He said:

“James has impressed us with his depth of knowledge and grasp of this complex condition, and we are looking forward to working with him on his project over the summer. Our thanks, too, go to the Peninsula Medical Foundation, which is a valued supporter of our students and our research.”

The Peninsula Medical Foundation is a charity which supports local medical research and health-related students.

Professor Mary Watkins, Chair of Trustees from the foundation, said:

“James and his research represent the sort of project we like to support – one which provides a student with a career-enhancing opportunity and which furthers local research. We wish him well with this exciting venture.”

One in 25,000 people worldwide is affected by neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2), a condition where the loss of a tumour suppressor called Merlin results in multiple tumours in the brain and nervous system.

Sufferers may experience 20 to 30 tumours at any one time and such numbers often lead to hearing loss, disability and eventually death. Currently, the only available effective therapies are repeated invasive surgery or radiotherapy aimed at one tumour at a time and which are unlikely to eradicate all the tumours in one go. NF2 can affect any family, regardless of past history, through gene mutation. There is no cure.