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Elucidating novel disease mechanisms in sepsis

Project Description

Sepsis is defined as “life-threatening organ dysfunction due to a dysregulated host response to infection”. It is a major public health problem since it affects millions of people worldwide each year, and it accounts for most deaths in critically ill patients. Lipopolysaccharide (endotoxin) is a critical actor in the pathogenesis of Gram-negative sepsis. We have recently shown that the endotoxin produced in vivo by K. pneumoniae, one of the leading pathogens causing Gram negative sepsis, is different to that produced under laboratory conditions.

In this project, we will address what we believe is a critical question in the sepsis field: the type of responses induced by the in vivo endotoxin. The results of this project could lead to a paradigm shift because our evidence thus far suggests that in vivo endotoxin induces a distinct anti-inflammatory signature when compared to the in vitro one. By bridging molecular microbiology, glycobiology, immunology, and vascular biology and by exploiting a novel circulatory loop ex vivo vessel perfusion system, we will define the molecular signature (receptors, signalling pathways and responses [determined by RNA seq]) activated in macrophages and vascular endothelial cells, and we will uncover the impact of the in vivo endotoxin on vascular endothelial cell biology.

The latter is particularly relevant considering the critical role played by vascular endothelial cells in the pathogenesis of sepsis leading to multi-organ failure syndrome.


We are looking for graduates who are enthusiastic and strongly motivated to use the most innovative approaches to address key global challenges in infectious diseases, antimicrobial resistance, animal health, climate change and sustainability. Applicants should have a degree in biological sciences or a related discipline.

The minimum academic requirement is an Upper Second Class Honours degree from a UK or ROI HE provider (or qualifications deemed equivalent by the University).

Students wishing to apply to Queen’s University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language) must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. For more information on English Language requirements see

Funding Notes

The studentship will be funded by the Department for the Economy (DfE). Please read the full information on eligibility criteria: View Website

However, there may be flexibility to fund a small number of exceptional International applicants.

General enquiries about the programme may be directed to


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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