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Airway epithelium and respiratory syncytial virus – effect of developmental age on responses to infection

Project Description

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the principle cause of severe lower respiratory tract disease in young infants, including bronchiolitis and pneumonia. However, there are no vaccines or specific drugs to prevent or treat infection. Peak infections occur in infants <6 months old, while premature infants are at increased risk of severe disease. RSV primarily infects ciliated cells in the airway epithelium, which plays an important role in disease progression. However, the mechanisms by which RSV causes disease in infants remain poorly understood. We hypothesised that as gestational and chronological age are closely associated with RSV disease severity and that RSV primarily infects airway epithelium, innate immune responses in airway epithelium to infection develop over time to become more robust and attenuate disease severity. In this exciting project, we have generated well-differentiated primary nasal epithelial cell cultures from cohorts of preterm and full term infants at birth and repeated these when the same infants were 1 year old. This comprises a unique airway epithelial cell sample set with which to address our hypothesis. We will exploit these cultures to identify genes and signalling pathways potentially implicated in airway epithelium morphogenesis and the development of innate immunity to RSV infection and the mechanisms by which they function. This project, therefore, may have huge implications for the development of strategies to control severe RSV disease.


Candidates should have or expect to obtain a 2:1 or higher Honours degree or equivalent in a relevant biomedical or life sciences subject.

English Language

Candidates applying from countries where the first language is not English should produce evidence of their competence through a qualification such as IELTS or TOEFL score.

The minimum recommended score for the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Science is:
• IELTS score of 6.0 with not less than 5.5 in each of the four component elements of listening, reading, speaking and writing taken within the last 2 years;
• TOEFL score of 80+ (internet basted test), taken within the last 2 years, with minimum component scores of; Listening 17, Reading 18, Speaking 20, Writing 17);
• A valid Certificate of Proficiency in English grade A or B;
• A valid Certificate of Advanced English grade A; or
• A first or upper second class honours degree from a university based in the UK, Republic of Ireland or other suitably quality assured location in a country deemed by the UK Border Agency to be majority English speaking.

For a list of English Language qualifications also accepted by the School and University please see the following link:

INTO Queen’s English Language Courses offers both pre-sessional and in-sessional courses in English for academic purposes and study skills. Courses vary in length and full information can be obtained at:

Funding Notes

*FUNDING CONFIRMED – Department for the Economy (DfE) Award*

Eligibility for both fees (£4,327 for 2019/20, 2020/21 TBC) and maintenance (£15,009 for 2019/20, 2020/21 TBC) depends on the applicants being either an ordinary UK resident or those EU residents who have lived permanently in the UK for the 3 years immediately preceding the start of the studentship.

Non UK residents who hold EU residency may also apply but if successful may receive fees only.

For further details re eligibility criteria (including academic, citizenship and residency criteria) please click on the following link: View Website


Please visit the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Centre for Experimental Medicine, website for further details about the Centre:

When applying, please choose 'MEDICINE' as your subject area/School.

Related Subjects

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