PhD Studentship: Immunomodulatory role of Exosomes

University of Sheffield - School of Clinical Dentistry

Our long-standing research interests have been focused on the innate immune system with particular relevance to the protection of the ears, nose, mouth and airways. In order to understand the complex relationship between the normal flora and these tissues, and to understand the changes that take place following exposure to harmful bacteria and viruses, we have established a number of 3D in vitro models. Specifically we have established models of the tracheobronchial region of the lung, the nasal mucosa, the oral mucosa, salivary glands and the inner ear and have subjected these models to a number of infectious insults including bacterial and viral infections.

We have recently started to research the potential of salivary exosomes (nanometre scaled, membrane enclosed vesicles containing molecules such as DNA, RNA and also proteins) as disease biomarkers. Recent published research has indicated that exosomes, which are produced by many bodily fluids including serum, urine, breast milk, saliva and lung lavage fluid, may play an immunomodulatory role. Furthermore it has been suggested that in the lung they have an antiviral function.

This project will investigate the immunomodulatory role, in terms of the expression and role of antibacterial and/or antiviral proteins, present in exosomes released from epithelial cells in our 3D in vitro models. We will also collect samples from patients suffering chronic inflammatory diseases of the respiratory tract, the inner ear and the mouth and isolate exosomes from these samples for comparison with the in vitro models.

The results from this study will elucidate the role of exosomes in normal and disease-related, physiological processes particularly mucosal defence, which could lead to the development of novel therapeutic targets.

Entry Requirements

Candidates must have a first or upper second class honors degree or significant research experience.

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Northern England