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Kharmen Billimoria

I am currently completing the first year PhD as part of the Trace Metals in Medicine research group in the School of Engineering.

Title: Metrology for Bio-imaging of metals in the Alzheimer’s disease brain.

Supervisor: Dr Joanna Collingwood, Collaborators: LGC Ltd.

Context: Dementia cases, two thirds of which are related to Alzheimer’s disease, afflict ca. 850k people in the UK at an annual health and economic cost of around £26 bn. It is now the leading cause of death in England and Wales, accounting for > 11% of all deaths. There have been recent reports, highlighted in the press, of increased iron levels in Alzheimer’s disease; however, quantifying concentration alone may not advance understanding of the pathology or improve treatment. Local changes in metal ion metabolism are fundamental to understanding aspects of toxicity that arise in the brain in neurodegenerative disorders. There are recognised challenges involved in the detection of metal elements and metal-binding species in the human body. A particular challenge is presented by the need to capture information about the spatial distribution of these metals and associated proteins in tissues. To date, quantitative analytical approaches such as LA-ICP-MS lack traceable methodology to accurately determine and characterise the distribution of target species; this is necessary to provide certainty of measurement and to validate measures obtained using other imaging techniques.

Aims and Objectives: This project will advance multimodal imaging through quantitative elemental imaging and speciation analysis, and the complementary use of non-destructive synchrotron micro-focus XRF imaging and speciation. The project will seek to further metrological imaging of tissues down to single cells through the development of traceable calibration strategies and standards suitable for both microfocus-XRF and LA-ICP-MS, whilst investigating the potential of quantitative multiplexed analysis. Due to the multi-modal nature of the work, significant attention will be applied to the comparison, overlay and interpretation of information related to elemental distribution, analyte oxidation state and chemical binding.

Novelty of the Research Methodology: The project seeks to develop sample preparation methodologies to produce standards containing one or more elements (with distinct properties that create particular analytical challenges), viable for measurement by both techniques. These standards will provide a traceability link and allow for comparison between LA-ICP-MS and microfocus XRF.

Academic Background

MAS-CDT (MSC), 2016-2017 University of Warwick


1) Metrology for bio-imaging of metals in the Alzheimer's disease brain, Supervisor: Joanna Collingwood (School of Engineering, Warwick) Collaborators: LGC Ltd.

2) Polymer nanocomposites for bioresorbable vascular scaffolds

Supervisor Dr Lukasz Figiel (WMG, Warwick).

Masters of Chemistry (MChem) with Industrial placement, University of Hull (2011-2015)

Masters research project: Working with the surfactants and colloid group to develop a foam dressing that would solidify and conform to the irregular shape of the wound allowing for quick application, large absorbance capacity and easy removal.

Industrial Placement: Materials Characterisation, Akzonobel (2013- 2014)

Professional Background

Quality Specialist, GlaxoSmithKline (2015-2016)

Analysing finished products to support on site manufacturing; undertaking a variety of analytical and physical testing using techniques such as HPLC and ion chromatography.