Katherine Timms (Katie)


Currently, I am on the Centre for Doctal Training in Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine (Innovation in Medical and Biological Engineering). I am within the second cohort for this programme, and started in September 2015. This 4 year course entails an intergrated MSc and PhD. 

Prior to this, in 2015 I graduated from the University of Leeds with a first class (with honours) BSc Medical Sciences with Industrial Placement year. During my undergraduate degree I learnt about a wide range of topics within the medical research landscape. However, it was the tissue engineering aspect which really grabbed my attention. For my dissertation, I worked with Prof. Joanne Tipper in assessing cellular responses to synthetic CoCr wear particles.

Furthermore, during my placement year (2013-14) at GlaxoSmithKline I worked in the molecular histology department. The main aim of the group was to characterise potential novel targets for drug discovery/development. This placement year was instrumental in helping me decide I wanted to pursue medical research as a career. In choosing my PhD programme, I wanted a course where I could build upon skills I had already learnt but also apply them to a new field. 

Overall, the CDT programme allows me to utilise skills and knowledge I had learnt previously, and apply them to new research questions.

Research interests

For a poster outlining the initial aims of my project, click here

Spinal cord injury can be grouped into both traumatic and non-traumatic aetiologies. These have differing epidemiology and functional outcomes. Traumatic injuries are acute, and predominantly caused by accidents and afflict younger male populations [1]. Conversely, non-traumatic injuries are generally caused my chronic conditions which cause spinal compression; affecting older populations [2]. 

In both cases, the functional outcomes can be severe. For instance, leading to sensory loss, para or tetraplegia, as well as secondary illnesses such as urinary tract or respiratory infections. 

The methods of managing such patients are controversial. In both types of injury, surgical intervention is commonplace. Either to stabilise, fix, or decompress the spinal cord and possibly prevent further injury. A systematic reviews assessing whether spinal fixation surgery is beneficial in acute injury, compared to conservative treatment, found data (in particular randomised controlled clinical trials) to be lacking [3]. Anecdotal evidence, or that of retrospective studies, is conflicting [4]. Outcomes may also depend on the type of injury [5]. As for non-traumatic injury, little research has been undertaken.

It is feasible that altering the mechanical environment around the spinal cord could have consequences on the cord itself. either through altering progression of the degenerative cascade of events that occurs after spinal cord injury, changing the capacity of the cord to regenerate or having an effect on functioan outcomes.

The aim of my project is to utilise a 3D cellular model [6], as well as in vivo models [7,8], to assess the effects of stabilisation following spinal cord injury. It willl comprise evaluating current models of injury, adding stabilisation to both in vitro and in vivo models (including design and manufacture of a stabilisation device), and investigating the effect of stabilisation on injury outcomes.

Overall, understanding the effects of vetebral stabilisation/fixation on the spinal cord following injury could benefit patients, and help guide clinical practice.

Further to my core supervisory team, I will be collaborating with James Phillips at UCL, as well as other PhD students Jessica Kirk, Phillipa Clarkson, and Trang Nguyen.


[1] Lee et al., 2014. Spinal Cord52(2)

[2] New et al., 2014. Spinal Cord. 52(2)

[3] Bagnall et al., 2008. Cochrane Databse Syst Rev. 23(1)

[4] Shamim et al., 2011. Surg Neurol Int. 2(166)

[5] Shen et al., 2015. PLoS One10(8)

[6] East et al., 2009. J Tissue Eng Regen Med. 3(8)

[7] Cheriyan et al., 2014. Spinal Cord52(8)

[8] Kubota et al., 2011. J Neurotrauma. 28(3)

For any further information about me, my PhD project or further interests do not hesitate to contact me via email, twitter or linkedin.


  • BSc (Hons) Medical Sciences with Industrial Placement, University of Leeds

Research groups and institutes

  • Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering