More than tatas 

My wife wrote the following. As someone who has gone through intense chemo and radiotherapy and is coming to terms with her new normal I thought her opinion worth sharing with a wider audience.

The Breast Cancer Awareness season is upon us. Some of us may have even taken part in a walk/run or hosted a Strawberry Tea. Or, perhaps you are planning a Macmillan Coffee Morning. Awareness is important and wearing pink ribbons and reciting catch phrases like”Save the Tatas” play an important role in detection and early diagnosis. However, I want to educate you as to what lies beyond awareness and diagnosis.This time last year, I certainly had no clue.

Cute slogans like “Save the Tatas” don’t really give an accurate picture of what we face. Once diagnosed, those tatas can’t be saved. They will in some way be altered, mutilated in order to attempt to save the life that this catch phrase conveniently ignores. In addition to ignoring the humanity of the person behind the boobs, this slogan manages to both ignore and alienate men diagnosed with breast cancer. With all this chintzy pink and concern about saving tatas, where do they fit in?

Breast Cancer survivors are grateful for the all of the work and effort placed into building awareness, however, I would encourage you to go one step further over the next few months. Primary breast cancer is treatable and is not in itself terminal. However, for those of us diagnosed with breast cancer the real concern is secondary, or metastatic breast cancer, which is not curable. Early detection and treatment does not guarantee a cure and we will always, no matter how many years pass, continue to fear that 5, 10, 15, or 20 years down the line we will hear those dreaded words that the cancer has not only come back, but it has spread. That is our reality.

Research for metastatic breast cancer lacks funding. Metastatic breast cancer is scary. It isn’t a pleasant topic, but in order to find a cure or discover life prolonging treatments, it is essential to build awareness around this topic, not just around early detection. Over the next few months, while you plan your Macmillan Coffee Mornings, prep for your fundraising runs, or purchase your pink ribbons, please consider donating to organisations that actively fund secondary breast cancer research.


New Hamill Lab website

After 3 years as an independent faculty member I felt it was long overdue that I had my own website! So, yesterday and today I have been using adobe spark to generate some web content.

Its very much a work in progress with some gaps needing filled but if you want to have a look the link to the home page is here;

Comments and suggestions appreciated.

Team Hamill 

Umar graduated on Thursday and Valentina Barrera came in for a “keep in touch” day from her maternity leave so we took the opportunity to grab a new pic of the team.

Left to right: Dr Valentina Barrera, Dr Kevin Hamill, Dr Umar Sharif, Lee Troughton and Valentina Iorio.

Thanks to Neil for taking the pic and amusing us with his button struggles. Most of the other images had some or all of us cropped out and there was a really nice image of the carpet.

Note: Umar doesn’t always wear a bow tie to the lab!

PhD studentship availaible

I am pleased to announce the availability of a fight for sight funded PhD studentship working with myself, Sajjad Ahmad and Colin Willoughby in the Department of Eye and vision science, University of Liverpool.

Advert will be posted next week however you can read about the project below and, if interested, feel free to direct message me and we can arrange a time to chat.

Aniridia is a rare and severely blinding condition that affects 1 person in 100,000. Vision is affected from birth due to problems with eye development and this gets worse with age. 

One of the affected areas is the cornea (the usually clear front surface of the eye). In aniridia, the cornea becomes painful and hazy because the cornea’s surface stem cells (called limbal stem cells) stop working normally. Limbal stem cell transplants can treat some other conditions but this doesn’t work in aniridia. So in this project the aim is to find what happens to the limbal stem cells that makes aniridia different.

The team is studying mice with a genetic fault in the gene PAX6. This gives them a mouse version of aniridia. Evidence from the mice suggests that nearby cells called fibroblasts and the tissue surrounding the limbal stem cells (called the extracellular matrix) are also affected, but they haven’t yet been studied.

In this project the team is finding out what happens to human limbal stem cells when you grow them on fibroblasts from aniridia mice. Fibroblasts and limbal stem cells can both make extracellular matrix, so the team is also looking at how it turns out when faulty PAX6 is involved. They also want to know what happens to fault limbal stem cells when they’re grown on normal fibroblasts and extracellular matrix, to see if they can be rescued. The results should shed light on how it might be possible to treat aniridia in future

51 Days

The story is ready, now’s the time.

Pick a journal; scope, prestige, open access, impact factor? 

Doesn’t matter!

Shouldn’t matter!

Ok, it does matter, of course it does.

What about processing time?

This one says it’s fast. 

13 days average. 

Great, get it in.



2 weeks….3 weeks, check email daily,

Check online submission system

4 weeks…5 weeks, 

Check email hourly, Check spam mail, check submission system,

6 weeks…contact journal

Check email every 15 mins, Check online submission system.

7 weeks…

Still waiting
(To be updated, hopefully soon!)


They grow up so fast – MRes 2015-16 project 3

July 2016 and its time for another cohort of students to present the data generated from the last 3 months in the lab. This time joining team Hamill were Katie Ryan and Madalina Carter-Timofte both of whom have had another productive 10 weeks generating some interesting (and some surprising data) in their respective projects.

Today I got to enjoy the proud (science) dad moment of watching them present their work to their peers and field some tricky questions from the staff and students in the institute.

First up, Katie (left) presented her work on a potential new anti-angiogenic treatment which included some of  visually striking live tube formation assays to wow the crowds! The data set is really solid so hopefully we will prepare the manuscript soon.

Maddy (right) delivered her complicated story of the regulation of LaNts and laminin expression. The tactically sound decision to use llamas to illustrate the quite complicated story in an accessible way worked really well. Maddy’s work has revealed some interesting findings and has spurred me on to prepare a new grant proposal using some of her data as the basis behind the hypotheses we will test.

Both Projects were run with Prof Colin Willoughby, while Lee Troughton and Umar Sharif helped enormously in the day to day aspects of each project.

Ir’s been a fun year with the MRes students with lots of new research avenues being explored in each of these mini projects. The end of project 3 means that I now need to start thinking about preparing for next year and the new opportunities it will bring.

2016-07-08 16.30.01

The Great Umaro


Today is the last day in the Lab of Dr Umar Sharif (aka. the Great Umaro). Umar has with team Hamill for the past 6 months as maternity cover for Dr Valentina Barrera (thanks to funding from the Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease in response to their Athena swan policy).

The time has been fun and productive.

Umaro made significant contributions to the immunohistochemistry portions of a manuscript that is out for review at the moment.


LaNt a31 staining in human cornea vs IgG negative controls (middle) and porcine tissue (negative control)

In addition he performed the first sets of experiments into the role of LaNt a31 in angiogenesis; generating a whole bunch of cool movies looking at vessel formation in endothelial cells where we have manipulated LaNt protein expression. The project is now nicely poised for Vale to pick up on her return later in the year and hopefully we will get those data into the public domain as well soon.

huvec tube _scr 2 frame 30 105016

HUVEC tubes

Umar obtained his PhD from the University of Liverpool in the group of Luminita Paraoan, today also therefore marks the end of 4.5 years as a student here. Realistically, his best moment wasn’t being awarded his PhD but rather his much coveted contribution cup trophy win back in season 2 of the EVS journal club.

Thanks Umar, it’s been great!