Korri El Khobar
Korri El Khobar is a second year PhD student working with the Storr Liver Centre group at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research. Her research focus is to explore the lipid (fat) metabolism of Hepatitis C in the liver, to better understand how the virus operates.
Korri’s research is what’s referred to as ‘basic’ or ‘discovery’ research, which is directed toward greater knowledge and understanding of the fundamental aspects of medical conditions. This type is research lays the foundation for ‘translational’ research which then tests direct applications of basic research for patient care.
It’s an important distinction in relation to Hep C research, because although there is now an effective cure for Hep C, many aspects of the virus lifecycle remain a mystery. Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver cancer in Australia, and it is the as-yet-unknown link between the virus and liver cancer that Korri is investigating.
She has discovered that the protein β-actin (important for building the cytoskeleton of the cell) is altered in Hep C infected cells. This may increase the cell's ability to move around, a typical characteristic of cancer cells.
This is a novel finding and Korri is conducting further experiments to verify her initial results. In particular she wants to determine if the cells have directional motility – i.e. they move in a specific direction. If Korri proves her hypothesis, her research could have implications for cancer research, where treatments could be developed to target the mobile cells and regulate the spread of cancerous cells in the body.
Korri came to Australia after researching Hep C in Indonesia, which has high rates of the disease. The skills she learns at the Westmead Institute, and the networks she is already developing through collaborations with cell mobility experts and cancer researchers, will in the long term be highly beneficial for medical research outcomes, both here and in Indonesia.