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Georgie Holt

Georgie Holt, a PhD student researching BHD

21 May 2024

In this blog, we talk to PhD student, Georgie Holt. Georgie tells us about her research and how she hopes it will contribute to the BHD community.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you studying and what brought you to your field of research?

My name is Georgie Holt, and I am a second year PhD student in the Rajan Lab at Newcastle university. I started working in the Rajan lab in 2022 as a laboratory technician, which was my first experience in a research setting. As a lab, one of our key research interests is rare disease, with a focus on skin. I spent my first year of work researching another rare disease called Lynch Syndrome. I investigated using a new assay to screen for lynch syndrome in sebaceous and duodenal tumours. It was around this time when I was approached with the opportunity to continue my research as a PhD student. Having found a new passion for research and rare disease I knew it was the right step for me.

What got you interested in studying Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome?

I first heard about BHD two years ago, I began to read about the disease and became particularly interested in the formation of fibrofolliculomas and trichodiscomas. I wanted to know more about the skin tumours, and quickly came to realise there are significant gaps in the research and an inequity of treatments for patients. I was driven by a sense of compassion and urgency to contribute towards advancing our understanding and improving the lives of those affected. With my ongoing PhD project, I aspire to not only expand upon existing knowledge but also to bridge these critical gaps in understanding, ultimately striving towards more accessible and effective treatments for individuals affected by BHD.

Tell us a bit about your research for your PhD. What are you studying and what do you hope to contribute to the BHD community?

My PhD title is “Dissecting the tumour microenvironment in Birt Hogg Dubé skin tumours” The main aim of my project is to determine the driving cell type in these tumours and address gaps in existing knowledge. Understanding the driving factor of BHD tumours brings opportunity for the development of new treatments for these patients, potentially reducing surgical removal procedures and psychological factors these patients endure.

What do you hope to achieve in your career, both in your PhD and after?

I would love to continue to pursue a career in research, with a specific focus on rare skin diseases. I am passionate about contributing to the advancement of knowledge in this field and working towards improving outcomes for patients affected by these conditions. I hope to become an advocate for rare disease research, raising awareness about the challenges faced by individuals living with such conditions and advocating for increased support and resources for research initiatives. My experience in the Rajan lab has not only deepened my understanding of rare skin diseases, including BHD, but has also driven my appreciation for patient and public engagement. I have been lucky enough to take part in patient and public involvement events since starting my PhD, most recently I led an activity table on rare disease day, where I made 3D models of BHD skin tumours, raising awareness of the disease and answering questions from the public about my research. I am committed to actively engaging with patients and the public throughout my career, listening to their experiences, and incorporating their perspectives into my research. Ultimately, my goal is to make a difference in the lives of individuals impacted by rare skin diseases. Whether it's through innovative research discoveries, advocating for policy changes, or enhancing patient care. I am dedicated to working towards improving the quality of life for patients and their families. I think this is such an important topic and being able to connect with patients reminds me exactly why we do the research we do. Improving patients’ quality of life, will always be at the forefront of what we do.  

Click here to connect with Georgie on LinkedIn.