by Anna Melidoni
AM: Tell us a bit about yourself and your current focus of research.
SK: I am a Lecturer in Nutrigenetics and Cardiovascular Health in the Department of Clinical Pharmacology, at William Harvey Research Institute, Barts & the London Medical School, Queen Mary University of London. I have a BSc in Nutrition and Dietetics, an MSc in Clinical Nutrition and a PhD in Nutrigenetics. I specialize in statistical genetics with over 10 years’ experience in the genetics of cardiovascular and cardiometabolic diseases and the lifestyle/diet interplay. My research interests are the development of predictive tools that incorporate genetic, epigenetic, biochemical, metabolomics and lifestyle data, as a new model for improved diagnosis and treatment of cardiometabolic diseases.
AM: What do you think is the most fascinating recent development in cardiovascular research/Cardiology?
SK: I think that one of the major breakthroughs in the area of cardiovascular research in the recent years has been the large scale population and genetic studies, combined with basic and translational research that has improved our understanding of the cardiovascular disease. One such example is the recent introduction of PCSK9 inhibitors as a cholesterol-lowering drug, led by the discovery of a novel genetic mutation in the PCSK9 gene that results in high levels of LDL cholesterol in the plasma. Sophisticated bioinformatics tools are also enabling comprehensive interrogation of different type data and allow us to better investigate biological pathways implicated in cardiovascular disease.
AM: Is there an area of Cardiovascular biology/Cardiology that you think is currently under-explored?
SK: There are a couple of areas that are still under-explored in relation to Cardiovascular biology. One is the epigenomic effects on the risk of cardiovascular disease and in this area interactions between the genome and the environment/lifestyle/diet are definitely not fully investigated. This is an area where precision medicine would focus in the next years, guided by findings in large-scale, well-characterised population studies. Another under-explored area is the microbiota and the effects of the microbiome gene expression on human health, which I believe will reveal pieces of the puzzle regarding the pathophysiology of many complex diseases, cardiovascular included.
AM: Where do you see (or where would you like to see) the cardiovascular/Cardiology research field 10 years from now?
SK: I foresee a more streamlined research in the future, where different types of experiments and data are integrated in a rapid and harmonious way. The incorporation of highly sophisticated bioinformatics tools (AI, Machine Learning) will allow a faster and more efficient “computer to bench to bedside” research. I also believe that the results of this research will be readily interpreted into the clinical practice and there will be a closer collaboration between researchers and clinicians for the benefit of the patients.
AM: Can you think of any collective initiatives that could support/speed up ‘bench to bedside’ research?
SK: Collective initiatives that would include rapid sharing and integration of multiple data, including genetic, epigenetic, metagenomics, biochemical, metabolomics, imaging and lifestyle could pioneer fast and accurate way for prevention, diagnosis and effective treatment in the era of precision medicine. Development of AI models and machine learning algorithms could also speed up efficient re-purposing of drugs and better prioritise functional studies and clinical trials. The close collaboration between scientific investigators and clinicians is vital for this initiative to work with direct benefits for the public. The recent pandemic has highlighted the extent to which scientists and clinicians could join efforts in the most effective way to develop therapeutic and prevention tools. This is a stark exemplar that would benefit many other diseases if adopted.
AM: What does it mean to you to be an Editorial Board Member for BMC Cardiovascular Disorders?
SK: I am honoured to have been asked to take up this role. It has been a great opportunity for me to oversee the review process and publication of some great scientific work and witness how a manuscript could benefit and transform through constructive reviewing and editorial feedback.
AM: What is one piece of advice you would give to reviewers as an EBM overseeing peer review ?
SK: I would advise reviewers to only commit to the review process if they have the time and required expertise for the specific manuscript. It is disheartening and inconvenient when reviewers agree to handle a manuscript but then don’t return any comments or provide very little feedback to the authors. The reviewing process should be constructive for the authors and it would be more beneficial if more highly experienced scientists were engaging with this.
AM: What is one piece of advice you would give to prospective authors ?
SK: I would advise authors to really highlight how their research is contributing to the specific field and how their findings fit in the wider picture. Authors should always consider statistical power and also consult an experienced analyst, when performing their statistical analysis and presenting their results for a manuscript. The Methods section is a vital part of each manuscript and should include enough details to enable the reviewers to ascertain the credibility of the experiment/study/analysis. Authors should make sure that they are as transparent as possible when describing the methods to avoid delays or unfavourable reviews.
AM: What would you change in scientific publishing if you could?
SK: I believe that scientific publishing could be more streamlined for the benefit of the authors and the journals. Format styles and submission requirements should be standardised across all journals to avoid delays in the publication times. Interactive platforms between authors and reviewers for real-time review feedback, while protecting anonymity, could also offer more transparency in the process and reduce delays.