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Meet the Faculty

Unravelling Disease Dilemmas through Biomedical Research

Refuse to be sidetracked by her tiny structure and gentle voice. Rather, take note of the fact that Cave Hill’s biomedical researcher Dr. Thea Scantlebury-Manning already has a number of ‘firsts’ under her belt, and is on course to leave an indelible mark on the field of biochemistry.

Born in Barbados, Dr. Scantlebury-Manning journeyed to Canada as a young child after her father became ill, and needed more medical support than the island could offer at that time.  She credits this lifechanging event as being the genesis of her drive to understand the origin and progression of disease.
Dr. Scantlebury Manning’s excellent academic performance throughout her school life in Canada culminated in the completion of PhD in Biochemistry at Concordia University, ranked in the top 1% of universities worldwide by the École des Mines de Paris.   

Completed in 2001, the doctoral study proved groundbreaking. Along the way, Dr. Scantlebury-Manning was the first to attempt to insert the ASP (Acylation Stimulating Protein) gene into a mouse egg as a means of studying its effect on the regulation of fat during the mammal’s life.

Her investigations of the role of ASP and  that of its parent proteins on fat storage provided knowledge that was not only seminal to the fight against obesity and related diseases, but could shed light on the more appropriate drug formulations to fight this increasingly challenging epidemic.  

Dr. Scantlebury-Manning admits that her doctoral work opened doors as far as the European Union.  She sojourned to the University of Reading to become part of an international team using a new technique to investigate the influence of bad bacteria on stomach cancer.  There, this still fairly junior researcher was given the critically important task of travelling to test sites across Europe to propel the collaborations necessary to make the endeavour fruitful. Today, the global acceptance of probiotics as a treatment for stomach ailments can be credited in some part to the findings of this very research project.
Bringing Expertise Home
A series of events, both personal and professional succeeded in bringing Dr. Scantlebury-Manning home to Barbados in 2003, where she took up a teaching post in the Department of Biological and Chemical Sciences at Cave Hill.  Encouraged by the distinguished Professor Wayne Hunte to ‘put Barbados on the map through biomedical research’ this gifted researcher set about doing just that.

Biomedical research is not only expensive, but it requires the co-operation of the fraternity of medical doctors in order to successfully investigate the presentation and progression of disease in their patients.  Dr. Scantlebury-Manning is the first to admit that starting up a biomedical research lab and developing collaborations were challenging tasks due to a lack indigenous resources, but she persisted in knocking on doors until the needed support was granted from the Barbadian medical fraternity and the private sector.

Tenacity and attention to detail have also resulted in the securing of a number of university research grants and a Commonwealth Grant to support a student visit to a collaborator’s lab in Canada. Dr. Scantlebury-Manning can also make the unusual boast of receiving just about ¼ million dollars in research funding and/or equipment from regional business houses.    

Though care has been taken to maintain research partnerships with experts in the international academic community, Dr. Scantlebury-Manning is committed to working with her postgraduate students at Cave Hill to investigate health issues that heavily impact Caribbean populations. In this vein she and past PhD student, Dr. Angela Carrington-Dyall undertook research which succeeded in narrowing the biomarker panel for diabetes and other obesity-related ailments.

Dr. Scantlebury-Manning, Dr. Gittens, and Computer Science Graduate student Che-Leslie Cox. Proud members of the Cave Hill Women in Science Network.

Another research project done in the United States and the Caribbean  demonstrated that women of African descent store fat more efficiently than Caucasian women, and that they have additional protection from heart disease through a differential operation of the ASP gene.The true importance of this finding rests in the indication that race is a biomarker for disease origin and progression in Caribbean and North American populations.  The race question has also been extended to consider the effect on salt intake on the body in a study completed alongside Dr. Damian Cohall, from the Medical Faculty at Cave Hill.

Perhaps the most seminal accomplishment since returning home has been the development of a ‘biomarker’ screen (potentially patentable) for predicting whether diabetes and its complications will accelerate in an individual patient. Not one to rest on her laurels, Dr. Scantlebury-Manning has also turned her attention to mapping the influence of proteins such leptin and adiponectin on disease development and progression and has developed cross-campus collaborations to further research in this area.   
More than a Researcher
Dr. Scantlebury-Manning admits that some juggling is necessary to fulfill teaching and research commitments while maintaining an attentive and caring presence in the lives of her husband and children.  She credits her husband Roger for giving the unswerving support that has made it possible to have a successful work-life balance.

Never one to settle for being beaten by the boys in her classes, Dr. Scantlebury-Manning is extremely passionate about the Women in Science Network at the Cave Hill Campus. She, along with the Cave Hill community is waiting in anticipation to see how the next generation of indigenous female scientists will better the world in which we live. 
Click here to view some of the research done by Dr. Scantlebury-Manning »

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