Two runners – one a beauty queen, one a lab researcher – and one half marathon for kidney research by Sarah Williams
Holly Reshad is Miss Edinburgh 2019 and she’s a student of science. Katie Mylonas is a Kidney Research UK funded researcher working on damaged cells in kidneys. On Sunday 26 May both of them ran the Edinburgh Half Marathon to raise awareness about and funds for research into kidney disease.
Holly said: “It’s been amazing being Miss Edinburgh. I’ve really enjoyed all that I’ve been able to do through the doors that have been opened to me. I hadn’t expected to win, I mean, I’m a girl raised on a farm, am around animals and dirt all day, and I don’t wear make-up. So I was really shocked when they announced it was me!
“But it’s given me a fantastic opportunity to speak and to have a voice on something I’m really passionate about. I want to promote a different image for girls and women on social media. I’m saying be whoever you want to be and look however you want to look. You shouldn’t have to edit yourself!”
Not only is Holly working hard in her Miss Edinburgh role, she’s a third-year at Edinburgh Napier University, where she’s studying animal biology.
“I love science because we will never know everything about everything and for me that is fascinating in itself. We’ll never stop learning. I love the course I’m on. David Attenborough was, and still is, a huge influence on me and I would love to be involved in conservation work.”
So why fundraise for Kidney Research UK?
Holly and her sisters have all had kidney problems. They’ve had kidney infections that were so bad the sisters had to be hospitalised.
Holly continued: “I was in hospital twice because of kidney infections. The pain was so bad I couldn’t move. The second time, when I was sixteen, I ended up in hospital in the middle of my exams.
“I’m doing this half marathon for Kidney Research UK because the research they fund is hugely important. Everyone deserves to have a life they can live fully and in freedom. That’s not the case for most people on dialysis; they are kept alive by a machine.
“Kidneys are such important organs, they do so much in the body and when they go wrong it can be devastating. I missed my final exam at school because I had a kidney infection, so funding research to try and find a cure is a serious business.”
Katie said: “I’ve always had an interest in science ever since I was a child. It was a subject I was always good at. I remember avidly collecting a monthly child’s magazine all about science and technology and I always wanted to know more.
“At secondary school I was encouraged by my science teacher, who gave me extra work to do, but it inspired a lifelong passion in me. I ended up doing chemistry and biology and pretty much all thing science for my exams.
Katie grew up in Donegal in Ireland and did her first degree in biology at Queen’s University Belfast. After graduation she got the opportunity to travel to Iceland and ended up spending four years in Reykjavik working for a human genetics bio-tech firm.
“My time in Iceland gave me a rich insight into lab work and the possibilities of what research could do to find cures for diseases or better treatments for patients.”
In 2003 Katie began her PhD at Edinburgh University focussing on cell biology and immunology. After successfully completing that degree, Katie began working with Professor Jeremy Hughes (who has since become Kidney Research UK’s chair of trustees) on a project looking at cells in kidneys.
“I realised how important and how impressive an organ the kidney is and saw for myself how many people are affected by a kidney injury impacting their lives, and possibly leading to total kidney failure.
“Kidney disease is on the increase and if there’s an opportunity to slow it down or find a cure, then we need to be doing that.”
In 2019, Katie was awarded a fellowship from Kidney Research UK. This three-year grant will fund her research project which is looking at a cancer drug to see if it might help slow the progression of kidney disease.
Katie continued: “In the lab, I’ve been looking at how inflammation in the kidneys can cause ill health particularly in older people. Cells which have stopped working as they should start working against the body because they have lost their ability to divide and these cells increase with age and kidney injury. They are known as senescent cells.
“Normally when the kidney is injured, white blood cells appear in order to aid the healing process. But we’ve found the ability of the white blood cells to be ‘repairers’ is negatively affected by the presence of the senescent cells. They can’t do their job.
“However, we’ve found a drug that kills the senescent cells and by reducing them, the drug has helped to protect the kidneys from further damage.
“I’m investigating whether it’s possible to enhance the ability of the white blood repairing cells to heal the kidney by actively killing the senescent cells and in addition by strengthening or boosting the white blood cells in their repair function.
“I’m really excited that this research might eventually lead to treatments that could protect older or chronically damaged kidneys from further damage.”
Running for Kidney Research UK
“I’m running the Edinburgh half marathon for Kidney Research UK because the charity is close to my heart. The charity has funded my research, but more than that, I know they have a passionate vision to see lives free from kidney disease, and I wholeheartedly support that.
“It’s important to me to be able to give something back, so this time it’s the Edinburgh half!”
As you can see from the photos above, both Holly and Katie had a great race. Katie said: “I really enjoyed race day and it was brilliant to run with Holly, who provided so much encouragement!”
If you’d like to support Holly or Katie in their fundraising, please check out their Justgiving pages here:
Holly - https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/missedinburgh
Katie - https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/katie-mylonas
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