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Dr Hector Chinoy

Hector ChinoyDr Hector Chinoy is an Arthritis Research UK clinical fellow at the University of Manchester and a specialist registrar in rheumatology at Hope Hospital in Salford.

What does your work involve?

I'm training to be a rheumatology consultant and am currently studying for a PhD. My research involves a condition called myositis, which causes muscle weakness and inflammation, sometimes as part of other diseases such as lupus or scleroderma. I'm interested in what it is about myositis sufferers that causes them to develop the condition in the first place – this might be their genetic make-up, or something that they've been exposed to in the past. It's practically difficult to do research in myositis as it's such a rare condition. At the moment I'm building detailed information about myositis sufferers up and down the country so that these risk factors can be examined in more detail in a large enough group of patients.

How long has Arthritis Research UK been funding you?

Arthritis Research UK has given me funding for three years as a clinical research fellow, and I'm in my second year. Prior to this, I received practical help from the Arthritis Research UK's epidemiology unit in Manchester during a master's project performing some preliminary myositis genetic work.

What's the most important thing you have found out in the past 12 months? Why?
There are two main forms of myositis – polymyositis and dermatomyositis, which are generally treated in a similar fashion. There are aspects of each condition that suggest they're actually different diseases. For the first time, our team have shown that there are genetic differences present between the two conditions in a gene called HLA (which is involved in a number of rheumatic conditions). This will help us to work out which individuals may respond in certain ways to treatment and develop particular ailments.

What do you hope or expect to achieve as a result of your Arthritis Research UK funding?

We may be able to identify some important genes that will give us further understanding of how myositis develops in the first place. It may be possible to predict in the future which patients are likely to do well or badly on treatment. The eventual hope is that new treatments can be tailored according to what important genes or chemicals are identified. We also hope to be able to identify what causes some myositis sufferers to develop cancers.

What do you do in a typical day?

My time is divided between working at Hope Hospital in Salford with Dr Bob Cooper, and the University of Manchester, where I'm working in the Centre for Integrated Genomic Medical Research with Professor Bill Ollier. I'm currently setting up about 30-odd clinics round the country in order to review our patients, and you can only begin to imagine the paperwork this is involving! In the next few months I'll be working in the labs doing some genetic work. I also work in a general rheumatology clinic once a week, and help with teaching medical students.

What's your greatest research achievement?
This is a very exciting project to be involved in, but at the moment we're at a very early stage in proceedings. Being able to discriminate between polymyositis and dermatomyositis using our genetic tests was certainly interesting, and I was able to present this work at the main UK and US rheumatology conferences.

Why did you choose to do this work?

Rheumatology always interested me as a medical student and the opportunity offered to me by Dr Cooper to help with his myositis research was too good to turn down.

Do you ever think about how your work can help people with arthritis?

The myositis patients I get to speak to regularly seem very grateful that someone out there is batting for their side. In fact my most challenging audience is when I have to speak in front of patients because of all the highly technical questions I get asked!

What would you do if you weren't a researcher?

I'd probably be the worst centre-forward ever to play for Newcastle United. My wife was less than impressed with me a couple of weeks before our wedding, when, during a game of football, my knee locked due to torn cartilage and I ended up being admitted to the hospital I worked in!

About Hector

Most spare time is taken up with our baby boy, Luke. I still play football, knees allowing, and also enjoy fell walking in the Lakes and Snowdonia.

This article first appeared in Arthritis Today Autumn 2005, issue 130.

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