Each month we will feature an expert from the Salimetrics Saliva Research Community. We will bring together University Researchers around the World in order to encourage the sharing of ideas.
We want to encourage Collaborative Research and to maximise Grant Applications / Awards in these challenging economic times. We have made it possible for you to communicate directly with the "Expert" featured.
Dr Arwel Jones, University of Lincoln
Dr Jones is a research fellow at the Institute for Health of the University of Lincoln. Following an entrance scholarship to Aberystwyth University in 2007, Arwel graduated with a First Class BSc (Hons) degree in Biology and Sport Science in 2010. In July of that year, he commenced his PhD entitled "Effects of bovine colostrum on immune responses to prolonged exercise and upper respiratory illness in active males" with a Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarship.This was a collaborative project between The Golden Dairy and Aberystwyth University.
The scholarship was part-funded by the European Social Fund through the European Union's Convergence Programme (West Wales and the Valleys) and administered by the Welsh Government. On completion of his PhD in 2013, Arwel was appointed as a postdoctoral researcher, a position that was jointly funded by Hywel Dda University Health Board and the Department of Sport and Exercise Science at Aberystwyth University. Here, he was involved in projects examining immune and inflammatory responses in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) at the Clinical Research Centre of Prince Phillip Hospital (Llanelli) and acted as a module coordinator within the Sport and Exercise Science degree scheme at Aberystwyth University. Since April 2014, Arwel has been based at the Lincoln Institute for Health.
One of the primary aims of his current position is to develop a joint research agenda between the Lincolnshire NHS Trusts, which provide primary, secondary and community care services, and the Lincoln Institute for Health, which provides an access platform to a wide range of research expertise. This will involve identifying the research priorities of COPD within the Lincolnshire NHS Trusts and develop fully specified research questions to direct collaborative research activities.
Interview with Arwel
1. Can you tell us about the major themes in your research program?
Broadly speaking my main research interests are exercise immunology and COPD.
Specifically, my studies investigate the acute and chronic effects of nutrition on immune responses to prolonged, strenuous exercise and how this relates to incidence of upper respiratory tract symptoms. I am interested in evaluating the positive effects of exercise (e.g. moderate intensity) on immunity and inflammation in clinical populations, particularly those diagnosed with COPD. My studies also aim to identify potential biomarkers in COPD, in order to better understand why some patients are prone to acute exacerbations, which are events that account for most of the morbidity, mortality and costs associated with COPD.
2. If you had to pick 1 publication in the past 5 years as the "best of your best", what would it be and why?
I would pick this one:
Jones AW, Cameron SJ, Thatcher R, Beecroft MS, Mur LA, Davison G (2014). Effects of bovine colostrum supplementation on upper respiratory illness in active males. Brain, Behavior and Immunity, 39, 194-203.
This was the first study on salivary microbiome in athletes, showing increased bacterial load during winter months, which was limited with bovine colostrum supplementation. I would say it is my best/favourite, not only for its novel findings, but also as it was the first study from my PhD to be published.
3. How did you get interested in using saliva in your research?
I was most enthused by the exercise physiology and immunology content of my Biology and Sports Science Undergraduate degree hence in my final year I wanted to complete a research project dissertation in the area of exercise immunology. Collection of saliva was a non-invasive method to allow me to measure immune responses to exercise. The project (under the guidance of my supervisor Dr Glen Davison) determined the effects of a nutritional intervention on the responses of salivary secretory IgA and salivary lysozyme to intermittent exercise.
4. Which salivary analytes are you working with?
Most of my projects to date have involved IgA and other salivary antimicrobial peptides including lactoferrin and lysozyme. I always measure salivary transferrin (marker of blood contamination) if the analyte of interest is also present in the circulation. I am very interested in identifying what other immune parameters can be measured in the oral activity. We recently published a short-communication on assessing immune cell function from oral samples (Davison and Jones, 2015; Oral neutrophil responses to acute prolonged exercise may not be representative of blood neutrophil responses; Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, 40, 298-301). Current work also involves assessing the effects of both nutrition and exercise on salivary microbiome and reactivation of latent viruses.
5. How has working with saliva changed the direction of your research plans?
There is no single marker available to predict the effect of an intervention (e.g. exercise, nutrition) on all aspects of immune function. Saliva collection provides a, simple, non-invasive route by which to measure the mucosal components of host defence.
6. What analyte is not measured in saliva now that you would hope could be measured in the future?
I would say there is an array of assays available to use saliva for measuring most parameters nowadays. However, I probably speak on the behalf of the field of exercise immunology by saying that we need further research to verify which analytes (present or new) are valid, reliable and robust predictors of upper respiratory tract infection in athletes. Given its proximity to where most pathogens enter the human body, saliva is likely to play an important role.
7. What advice would give young investigators who might be considering working with saliva in their research?
Although saliva is often considered to be more acceptable to study participants than repeated blood samplings, I think some people (most often those new to the area) can underestimate the number of factors (e.g. time of day, fasted/fed, hydration status, collection method) that can influence your target analytes and hence the need to control for them as much as possible within your study. We have a standardised method for the collection and processing of saliva in our laboratory but we also always ensure research participants fully understand what is expected (e.g. minimal movement during unstimulated passive drool). Keeping an accurate record of the duration of each collection and saliva volume also allows you interpret your results on the basis of absolute concentration and relative saliva flow rate. Last but very much not least, recognition of blood contamination and its potential confounding effect on your saliva samples. We try to reduce the risk of contamination by having strict control procedures in place (e.g. avoid teeth brushing on sample day, rinse mouth with water 10 min prior to sample collection) but, unfortunately, some individuals can be prone to providing saliva samples that have been contaminated with blood. As a result of samples testing positive for blood contamination, we’ve previously had to remove up to 25% of participants from our dataset. I dread to think what it would be if we didn’t have our preventive procedures in place! Therefore, in addition to the conventional dropout rate that you may experience when running a research study, you also need to be wary of participants lost for blood contamination. Any study measuring analytes present in both saliva and blood should be wary of this.
8. Tell us something about you (a hobby or special interest) that we would be surprised to know?
Most of my free time is spent with family. That may not be very surprising but you may be surprised to hear that I complete this blog on the due date of our new arrival. No sign yet! I’d probably provide an interesting case study over the coming weeks for many of the analytes offered by Salimetrics, particularly cortisol and melatonin!
To contact Arwel e mail: ArJones@lincoln.ac.uk
To feature in this series, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org