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Deciphering Immune Regulatory Networks to Harness the Host Against Parasitic Infections

   Hull York Medical School

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  Dr I Kourtzelis  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Parasitic infections have been associated with chronic destructive inflammation and increased rates of morbidity and mortality thus having immense and long-lasting socioeconomic impact ( In particular, Leishmania parasites affect several tissues such as liver, spleen and bone marrow and are responsible for the globally important disease known as leishmaniasis ( Importantly, macrophages and other phagocytic cells depending on their differentiation status can act as a safe haven for Leishmania parasites to reside and multiply. Failure to kill Leishmania can cause myeloid cells and particularly macrophages to release large amounts of inflammatory molecules that promote potentially damaging inflammation. Therefore, macrophages represent a central player in the regulation of leishmaniasis immunopathology.  

Despite the advances in the study of immunity to Leishmania, our understanding of the mechanisms shaping immune regulation following macrophage phagocytosis of parasites remains limited. 

Here, you will investigate the role of endogenous modulators of inflammation on the immune regulation of this parasitic infection. You will do this by employing a combination of in vitro and in vivo approaches. This project will include work on primary myeloid cell co-cultures that will be exposed to immunomodulatory agents and in vitro parasite phagocytosis experiments. Macrophage function and phagocytic activity will be assessed. Mouse models of Leishmania infection will be employed to verify the importance of the in vitro findings.   

Training will be provided in mouse disease models, in vivo imaging, cutting-edge immunological, real-time imaging, flow cytometry and omics techniques. Successful applicant will have access to a world-leading research environment that will transform your enthusiasm for immunology to impactful scientific discoveries.  

This project builds on and extends the existing critical mass in host-pathogen interactions and immunopathogenesis of parasitic infections in the University of York.  

Supervisors have gained significant expertise and track record in the study of myeloid cells and macrophage phagocytosis in disease models (Kourtzelis; Cell 2020, Nature Immunology 2019) and in the immune regulation of leishmaniasis (Kaye; J Clin Invest 2021, Front Immunol 2021, Nat Commun 2021).  

This exciting project will address timely and unresolved scientific questions that will open new areas of research in translational immunology of parasitic infections and potentially exploit them to treat other inflammatory diseases.  

Successful applicant will be required to obtain a Home Office licence.

For informal inquiries, please contact Ioannis Kourtzelis ([Email Address Removed]) or Paul Kaye ([Email Address Removed])  

Location and Research Culture 

The project will take place within the Experimental Medicine and Biomedicine group at Hull York Medical School at the University of York.  

Hull York Medical School is a unique partnership bringing together the expertise of both the Universities of Hull and York and offering a thriving environment in which to conduct world-leading research. Strong partnerships with NHS Trusts and community health organisations offer a wide clinical base that fosters translation of biomedical research to improve health. Our research is a key component of the York Biomedical Research Institute

You will be part of a vibrant post-graduate community within the medical school but also interacting with students from other PhD Programmes at the University of York. You will have access to the University of York Biosciences Technology Facility, allowing the use of cutting-edge equipment to support the research as needed for the project (e.g. imaging, bioinformatics etc.) You will be supported by a thesis advisory panel, and will follow a training programme on transferable and research skills.

Start Date 

1st October 2023 

Qualification Required 

In order to qualify for this scholarship you will require an undergraduate degree with at least a 2.1, or equivalent, in a relevant subject. English Language IELTS 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component. 

How to Apply 

All applications MUST BE submitted to Hull York Medical School via the online application method choosing option PhD in Medical Sciences 2023 October, full time or part time: 

The deadline for applications is the 15th February 2023  

In order for the Panel to get a sense of your academic background, commitment and interest, you are required to complete the application form in full and provide a research proposal/outline of academic interest. Research proposals and personal statements may be used in selecting applicants for interview. If you have any queries on how to apply please email [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

This 4-year full-time studentship will be funded by the Hull York Medical School. The funding will include:
Tax-free annual UKRI stipend (£17,668 for 2022/23 academic year)
UK tuition fees.
Research support and training charges, covering laboratory consumables and training costs.
International and EU students will need to have sufficient funds to cover the difference in fee costs (see laboratory-based degrees ) and the costs of their student visa, NHS health surcharge, travel insurance and transport to the UK as these will not be covered by the studentship.
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