Meet Charlie Lavilla Jr., Newton Fund grant awardee.

Research topic: Carnosine in Muscle: Biological actions and therapeutic implications

Host institution / UK university: Nottingham Trent University

Home institution: MSU - Iligan Institute of Technology

What is your proposed PhD research?

Our project seeks to characterise and develop a targeted low cost food supplementation strategy that could help treat or prevent muscle damage in people with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or who are subject to low protein diets. This will be accomplished by determining the biochemical properties of carnosine, a naturally occurring dipeptide that is purported to promote cellular rejuvenation and healthy aging, and which shows to promote insulin secretion and pancreatic function. This work will be further supported by a secondary strategy involving the screening of synthesized related chemical compounds, generated with a view to creating molecules of even greater potency and longevity.

What is the relevance of your research to the Philippines’ economic development and/or social welfare?

Diabetes is predicted to more than double, affecting 7.8 million individuals in the Philippines by 2030. This represents a significant major threat to both the health and economy of the nation. Our project offers novel strategies to help prevent the onset of the disease, or to significantly slow its development and the onset of debilitating (and expensive to treat) complications. The use of carnosine-rich foods to boost carnosine in the body of diabetics or individuals on low protein diets (both of whom have low levels of this protein) could offer a low cost solution to a major healthcare problem. Alternatively a more potent pharmacological solution using non-hydrolysable analogs will also be pursued. Either one if successful would offer major benefit to large numbers of people, both in the Philippines and globally.

How do you envision your UK education can contribute to your future career as a researcher?

Whilst at Nottingham Trent University, I aim to gain highly specialized knowledge of an array of biochemical techniques, drug discovery strategies and in silico design algorithms, which together with state-of-the-art proteomic platform technologies could be applied to advance research in my chosen area of specialization. Upon completion of my PhD I would then like to transpose this expertise back to the Philippines, to help strengthen research and promote the economic development of the Philippines. Moreover, by so doing I intend to support my sending institution’s (MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology) continuing efforts to develop into one of the leading research universities in my country.

How has the commitment of the UK in science and technology influence your decision in choosing the Newton Fund?

Through the Newton Fund, the UK could use and transfer its strength in research and innovation to provide me opportunities for international training and skills development at the doctoral level and could support me to be one of the highly-trained researchers in the country. This allows me then to be part in fulfilling the Fund’s goal that is to promote the  economic  development  and  social  welfare  of my country. In addition, The Newton Program’s initiative will serve to deliver opportunities for wider collaboration and trade between UK and Philippines.

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