Lead supervisor: Dr Peter Cook, College of Medicine and Health, University of Exeter
Additional Supervisors: Professor Noel Morgan, College of Medicine and Health, University of Exeter Professor Sarah Richardson, College of Medicine and Health, University of Exeter
Due to a major recent award, applications are invited from students wishing to further their scientific careers by undertaking a PhD in a diabetes related area of research. Up to four studentships will be fully funded from autumn 2020 with enhanced stipends funded from a new £6 million award. This award reflects Exeter as a world renowned centre of excellence for diabetes research.
Individuals with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing asthma, but the reasons behind this are unclear. This PhD project brings together experts in mycology, immunology and diabetes to determine whether alterations in nutrient availability impacts on the activity of lung macrophages and subsequent susceptibility to fungal lung disease.
Typically, the average person in the UK breathes in thousands of fungal spores everyday (particularly from Aspergillus) and, at least in some people, innate immune cells in the lung, especially macrophages, trigger anti-spore allergic responses that can lead to asthma. Increasing evidence suggests that there is a strong link between people with diabetes and the development of asthma but, despite this, there has been little research to understand how Aspergillus regulates the onset of asthma or how this process is altered in patients with diabetes.
We have recently found that macrophages in the lung are much less biologically active than those found at other tissue sites. This may be due to the unique environment in the lung, which confers on them a lower energy status leading to an overall reduction in metabolic activity. We hypothesise that the energy state of innate immune cells in the lung is regulated by the reduced supply of nutrients in the airway, and that this can become further disrupted in diabetes thereby enhancing the establishment of fungal asthma. The aims of this studentship are to explore how fungal asthma develops and to provide novel insights into how diabetes alters this process. The ultimate goal is to enable the effective design of novel strategies to treat and reduce the risk of asthma and fungal lung disease especially in patients with diabetes.
The successful student would be trained in state-of-the-art immunology techniques, including multi-parameter flow cytometry; whole section image analysis using AI technologies; mycology culture and transgenics; nutrient and metabolite analysis. They will also have the opportunity to work with in vivo mouse models, in vitro cell culture models and human tissue.
This is a 3 year fully-funded PhD studentship. Stipends are at an enhanced rate of £17,059 (2020-21) and all Home/EU tuition fees are covered. Funds will also be available for travel and research costs