School of Pharmacy

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Sarah Shafaat

Research Associate, Faculty of Science

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Biography

The way in which the human body works is the best example of divine engineering. As a biology student in my GCSE, learning about the anatomical and physiological aspects of human body has always mesmerized me and over the years, i became passionate about learning new treatments in search for the cure of various human diseases that impair the normal human body function. Since my childhood, I always aspire to become a researcher in the field of biological sciences and hence chosen biology as major in my GCSE.

I attended one of the most prestigious research institute of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at the University of the Punjab for my undergraduate in my home country. After four years of intensive learning and completion of final year research project I graduated with distinction and a cGPA of 3.74/4.0 in 2010. During my undergraduate, I actively participated in interdisciplinary research projects undertaken in the field of microbiology and molecular genetics and successfully published my then first author original research paper. During that time, I worked in both group projects as well as individual assignments and developed skills such as problem solving, writing research proposal, public engagement and communication, scientific writing and scientific research presentation. These skills later paved my way in undertaking my M.Phil in biotechnology.

During my postgraduate research studies, I worked in collaboration with industry partners and learnt various stages involved in the production and commercialisation of various biotechnological products. There I developed my skills of working in collaboration with industrial partners and proved myself as an affective member of the multidisciplinary research team by commercialising our first recombinant alpha-amylase and graduated with distinction and a cGPA of 3.7/4 in 2012. I have effective communication and teaching skills owed by teaching chemistry at GCSE level in year 2014-16.

The unabated technological advances in the field of material science have opened up new opportunities in biomaterial and tissue engineering field. I always have a keen interest in understanding novel biomaterials for clinical applications. I completed my Masters in Biomaterials and Regenerative medicine from the University of Sheffield securing top position with distinction and an average 82.8%. The taught programme has provided a perfect combination of theoretical and practical knowledge on manufacturing and analyzing novel biomaterial for clinical translation.

During my Masters in Sheffield I got the opportunity of working in a highly challenging environment both in academics and research. There, I learnt basic and advanced laboratory techniques essential to design and characterise biomaterials for advanced clinical applications. I have successfully completed all the taught modules with distinction and evolved my skills in relation to both practical as well as theoretical challenges concomitant with this postgraduate degree. I successfully completed my master's research project with the main aim to develop novel biomaterials for female pelvic floor repair. The objectives of my research were to synthesise an electrospun elastic polyurethane scaffold which releases estradiol for improved host tissue integration and angiogenesis in patients suffering from pelvic floor disorders. My proposed assessment of bioscaffolds for clinical applications in the female pelvic floor repair was accepted in many conferences and received considerable publicity on the University of Sheffield webpage and on different media platforms.

My paper entitled "Demonstration of improved tissue integration and angiogenesis with an elastic, estradiol releasing polyurethane material designed for use in pelvic floor repair" was published in the clinical journal of Neurourology and Urodynamics. I have always relished working in lab particularly when it comes to testing biomaterials in in vivo conditions such as by the chick chorioallantoic membrane assay (CAM assay). I have developed my expertise in ex-ovo CAM assay for testing biomaterials as this is a very rapid, simple and low cost in vivo model for evaluation of tissue response towards biomaterials, a prerequisite in translating research into clinical setup. This interpretation has always inspired me as a bioengineer to design materials which can be utilised as potential candidates in clinical research.

My ultimate aim was to convey the research methods and techniques in materials science and tissue regeneration to pursue my PhD and later utilise the knowledge and training in the tissue engineering industries as well as in academics. I began my PhD journey in the field of pelvic floor regenerative medicine with a distinctive focus on developing preclinical in vitro testing models for newly developed biomaterials intended for the female pelvic floor repair in an effort to reduce the number of animal testing in urogynecological research. I successfully developed an in vitro tissue engineered model of the vaginal epithelium for preclinical testing of biomaterials and published my work in the beginning of third year of my PhD entitled "A physiologically relevant, estradiol‐17β [E2] ‐responsive in vitro tissue‐engineered model of the vaginal epithelium for vaginal tissue research. I have developed my expertise in in vitro modelling systems and imaging methods to detect cellular response towards developing therapies and biomaterials in an in vitro environment. During my PhD, I presented my work at various conferences and platforms and communicated the need for developing better in vitro preclinical testing methods for biomaterials in line with Russel and Burch's 3Rs principles. I have acquired research skills in in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo testing models for biomaterials and I have a range of expertise in isolation, culturing and maintaining primary cell cultures and cell lines.I have also gained experience of fabrication of polymeric biomaterials using electrospinning and characterisation of materials using scanning electron microscopy, mechanical testing, surface analysis, FTIR and Raman spectroscopy. Moreover, during my PhD research, I have developed my skills in problem solving, optimisation of experimental parameters and evaluation of experimental data by utilising a range of statistical analysis. I hope to utilise the key tissue engineering skills that i have acquired over the years to serve as an effective member of the broader research community.

Expertise Summary

I always have a passion about learning human biology since my childhood. Over my academic years, i have gained expertise in various microbiological and molecular techniques including:

DNA isolation, Plasmid isolation, Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), Identification of unknown microbes, Screening & purification of microbial enzymes, Polymerase Chain reaction (PCR), High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), Thin liquid chromatography (TLC), Chromatography, Western Blotting techniques, Polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE), Fermentation techniques, Gene Cloning and Restriction mapping.

I have also have a wide range of materials science and tissue engineering expertise that i acquired during my MSc and PhD at the University of Sheffield. These include:

Human cell culture techniques, Biocompatibility testing techniques, Biomaterials fabrication and characterisation, mechanical testing of scaffolds, Scanning Electron microscopy (SEM), Flourescence microscopy, chick chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) assay, Immunohistofluorescence analysis and imaging, FTIR, Raman spectroscopy,Confocal microscopy and imaging, cell metabolic assays (resazurin and MTT), Collagen staining techniques (picosirius red and trichrome staining), In vitro modelling, animal testing, disease modelling, wound healing modelling, pre-clinical testing of biomaterials, isolation, culture and maintenance of primary cells and cell lines.

Teaching Summary

I have worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) for FCE100 module from 2020-21 in the Department of Materials science and Engineering University of Sheffield.

Research Summary

Skeletal muscle tissue engineering, fabrication of tissue engineered muscle construct

Recent Publications

Past Research

Development of functionalised bioscaffolds for applications in pelvic floor reconstructive procedures. Tissue engineered vaginal models for wound healing in the female pelvic floor. In vitro dermal constructs for studying melanoma invasion. Studies on the effect of estradiol on in vitro tissue engineered vaginal models to mimic the pre- and post menopausal conditions in women. Development of estradiol-releasing electrospun polyurethane scaffolds for pelvic floor regeneration and demoonstration of improved angiogenesis using ex-ovo CAM assay.

Future Research

Development of in vitro tissue engineered constructs for muscle and soft tissue regeneration

School of Pharmacy

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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