My name is Jan Kazenwadel and I am currently studying at the University of South Australia situated in Adelaide, Australia. For the last ten years, I have worked as a Research Associate in the Lymphatic Development Laboratory under the supervision of Associate Professor Natasha Harvey but this year I took the leap and became a Ph.D. student in her lab. Natasha is a leading light in the field of lymphatic research and her enthusiasm and drive to learn how lymphatic vessels are constructed during development has been a major reason why I made the decision to embark on a Ph.D.
It is my good fortune to be able to contribute to some very exciting research which I am sure will lead to better outcomes for people who are affected by lymphedema. One of our projects aims to understand how the genes necessary for construction and maintenance of functional lymphatic vessel valves are controlled. Defective valves are one of the reasons why lymphedema occurs and this knowledge will be crucial if we are to make progress in treating patients with dysfunctional valves using tissue engineering techniques. We are also discovering mutations in genes expressed in lymphatic vessels which cause the potentially devastating condition known as nonimmune hydrops fetalis where babies develop edema while still in the uterus. A better understanding of the genetic basis for the development of this condition will enable genetic counseling of parents and potentially more effective treatments of affected babies before they are born.
Earlier this year I was honored to be the recipient of a LE&RN GRC Travel Award. This award allowed me to travel to Italy and participate in the Gordon Research Conference on Lymphatics where I heard first-hand about cutting-edge developments in the field of lymphatic vessel biology from leading researchers. I also presented my most recent results and was able to get great feedback and new perspectives on my work from world experts. A highlight of the conference was meeting a group of people who suffer from lymphedema and who were very generous in giving up their time to share their experiences with the researchers. It was certainly inspirational to hear them speak and really emphasised the importance of developing better treatments as quickly as possible while continuing to work towards the ultimate goal; a cure for lymphedema.
I am very grateful for the support that I have received from LE&RN and I am committed, not only to my research but also to doing my best to inform and educate family, friends and the wider community about lymphedema.