Published: 11-11-2014 10:26 | Updated: 11-11-2014 10:38

“The more people using this assay, the happier I will be”

Samuel Chiang, PhD student at CIM, has received the Nezelof Award in Basic Science 2014. He has established a new diagnostic assay which looks at cytotoxic T cell function.

Samuel ChiangCongratulations to the award Sam! What does it mean to you?

- Based on biological insights from our lab, we have established a diagnostic assay that is more accurate than the current assay used in diagnostic labs world-wide. As such, this recognition will hopefully lead to more clinical diagnostic centres around the world adopting it. The more people using this assay, the happier I will be. I am very interested to know if the assay works as well for them as it does for us. Problems they may face can improve our assay further. Additionally, having painstakingly collected data for over three years, it is wonderful to know it is appreciated by the community. This award tells me I'm doing something right!

What is a histiocytic disorder?

- Histiocytes broadly refers to three cell types: dendritic cells, monocytes, and macrophages. Histiocytosis is thus a disease that is characterised by a large increase in these cells in tissue. The accumulation and activation of these cells can lead to a variety of severe clinical conditions and also represents a telling sign of gross disturbances of the immune systems caused by defects in other cell types.

Tell us about your research!

- The lab I'm in has an overt interest in cytotoxic lymphocytes (CL). One of the things these cells do is to kill virus infected and tumour cells. If your soldier cells don't work, you would obviously fall horribly sick sooner or later. Some people have been found to carry errors in genes important for CL function. The problem is, they look clinically the same compared to some other hyperinflammatory diseases that have not been associated with any genetic defect. Those that have a genetic defect will need to be transplanted but those who don't might not need it. So we are interested in developing good diagnostic assays to differentiate the two groups.

- A sensitive test on natural killer cells (one type of CL) function was established two years ago in which our lab played an important part, but this prize was for another test we developed independently and are now validating. This new assay looks at cytotoxic T cell function (a second type of CL) and we found it more accurate compared to the NK cell functional test in diagnosing genetic diseases leading to cytotoxic lymphocyte degranulation defects.

About the Nezelof Award
The award was granted at the annual meeting of the Histiocyte Society, a society concerned with research on potentially life-threatening immunological disorders of infancy. All abstracts submitted to the meeting were anonomously evaluated by a panel of experts. The top three ranked abstracts in basic science were nominated for the Nezelof Award, commemorating the late pioneer in the field of histiocytosis and founder of the society, Dr Christian Nezelof. Following oral presentation at the meeting, the best presentation amongst the nominated abstracts was judged by past presidents and board members of the Histiocyte Society.