A candidate-gene approach for targeted identification of new parasite immunomodulators against allergic asthma
This project will build on our knowledge of how parasitic helminths manipulate the host immune response, in a collaboration between the groups of Dr Henry McSorley (University of Dundee) and Dr Hermelijn Smits (Leiden University Medical Centre, the Netherlands). The successful candidate for this 4 year PhD position will spend significant time in both Dundee and Leiden, to identify, characterise and translate their findings.
Infection with parasitic helminths protects against the development of asthma in animal models and human epidemiological studies. This is interesting as the prevalence of human allergic asthma has increased in the past 50 years. Our previous work has shown that protection by helminths is via the secretion of immunomodulatory proteins, which have therapeutic potential for the treatment of human asthma. We have identified several defined immunomodulatory proteins, which can be grouped into protein families – the CCP domain family from parasitic nematodes, and a family of proteins from trematodes which unusually contain both a secretion signal and a nuclear localisation sequence. In this project further members of these families will be identified by bio-informatic prediction models and assessed for immunomodulatory functions in vitro. Promising candidates will be applied in experimental asthma models and translated to human immune cell cultures. This work will lead to identification of the next generation of parasite immunomodulators, and give critical information about host-parasite interactions in these infections.
Funding – This PhD position will attract a stipend payable at the UKRI minimum (for 2019/20 this is £15,009) for a period of 4-years and is open to all nationalities.