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Immune regulation by design

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  • Full or part time
    Dr A Ghaemmaghami
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

We are seeking for highly motivated candidates with strong academic background in immunology, chemistry, biology or related area for a multidisciplinary PhD project focused on development of biomaterials with immune modulatory properties with potential applications in immune therapy and vaccination. The project will be co-supervised by Professors Amir Ghaemmaghami (Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences) and Morgan Alexander (School of Pharmacy).

Background and aims:

Upon interaction with antigen presenting cells (APCs) such as dendritic cells, T lymphocytes can be differentiated towards different subsets (e.g. Th1, Th2, Th17 or regulatory T cells) with distinct functional properties. This process in tightly controlled and is influenced by the nature of different signals delivered to T cells by APCs. Under normal circumstances polarised T cells play a crucial rule in mounting efficient immune responses against pathogens or in maintaining tolerance. However, their uncontrolled activation can lead to different pathologies such as autoimmune diseases.

A large number of biomaterials are increasingly used in different branches of medicine for therapy (e.g. drug delivery), diagnosis (e.g. in situ monitoring biological readouts) and even vaccination. Once implemented in the body, the biomaterials are broadly seen as foreign bodies leading to different types of innate and adaptive immune responses. While the nature of biomaterial induced innate immune responses has the focus of many studies, their ability to control adaptive immune cells (either directly or indirectly) is less well understood. Over the past few years we have gained a detailed knowledge of different signals required for polarisation of distinct T cell subsets. We hypothesise that some of these signals could be imprinted on the biomaterials surface to control the polarisation of both innate and adaptive immune responses towards a desired immune response based on the specific application of a given biomaterial. Exemplary applications include induction of regulatory immune responses in the context of drug delivery for autoimmune diseases, materials with adjuvant properties for vaccination or induction of wound healing in the context of implantable devices. In this project we will investigate how different surface topographies and chemistries of biomaterials can change the phenotype and function of human dendritic cells and how this influence polarisation of naïve T cells towards different functional subsets (e.g. Th1, Th2, Treg).


The project provides excellent training opportunities in cellular immunology techniques (e.g. monocyte isolation, dendritic cell differentiation, flow cytometry), ELISA, PCR, confocal microscopy as well as a diverse range of microfabrication (e.g. soft lithography), analytical and surface characterisation techniques including WCA measurement, ToF-SIMs and high throughput microscopy amongst others.


Applicants should have a minimum 2.1 BSc in biology, chemistry, immunology or related discipline. Previous laboratory based experience in a relevant area will be advantageous. Overseas applicants should fulfil the University of Nottingham English Language Requirements.

Funding Notes

This post is suitable for self-funded applicants and is available immediately. Home and EU applicants should contact the supervisor to determine the current funding status for this project. International applicants should visit our page for information regarding fees and funding at the University


H. M. Rostam, S. Singh, N. E. Vrana, M. R. Alexander and A. M. Ghaemmaghami. Impact of surface chemistry and topography on the function of antigen presenting cells. Biomaterials Science 2015 (in press. DOI: 10.1039/c4bm00375f)

How good is research at University of Nottingham in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 90.86

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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