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Innate immune responses to HSV1 in human skin


   Faculty of Health & Medical Sciences

  ,  Monday, December 06, 2021  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Guildford United Kingdom Biochemistry Bioinformatics Cell Biology Immunology Microbiology Molecular Biology Biological Sciences Mathematics Virology

About the Project

The aim of this project is to generate new understanding of the ongoing battle between an important human pathogen, herpes simplex virus (HSV), and its physiologically relevant host tissue, the human epidermis. HSV is a highly contagious virus that infects cells of the oral mucosa, skin, cornea or the genital mucosa, and stays in the body forever. It is best known as the causative agent of oral herpes (cold sores) and genital herpes. However, there are other more serious outcomes of HSV infection: it is a major cofactor for the acquisition and transmission of HIV; it is the leading cause of infectious blindness in the developed world; and it is the foremost viral cause of encephalitis resulting in death or devastating brain damage. Immunosuppressed patients are highly susceptible to these complications, while in developing countries neonatal herpes remains a cause of death in newborns. With four billion people infected, there is a true worldwide epidemic of HSV. Nonetheless, no vaccine is available, and resistance to established antivirals is growing.

Although the major cell type of the epidermis is the keratinocyte, relatively little is known about how these cells respond to HSV infection, and in particular there is a lack of insight into HSV infection of the stratified, differentiated epithelia that make up the skin and mucosal epithelium.

In this project you will investigate the ability of human keratinocytes to sense HSV infection and elicit an interferon response. You will delineate the antiviral genes that have the potential be activated during infection, including how a stratified, differentiated skin model responds to HSV infection. In addition, you will explore the role of a virus-encoded protein kinase in counteracting these cellular responses, and determine if it acts by targeting specific cellular pathways or by modulating other virus antagonists of innate immunity. In this way, you will combine global and targeted studies of HSV infection, and learn a wide range of skills including tissue culture, virology, molecular biology, RNAseq, bioinformatics and confocal microscopy to identify potential new targets for therapeutic intervention to enhance antiviral responses and reduce virus transmission.

A 3.5-year fully funded studentship open to applicants worldwide starting in October 2022. Funding includes stipend, full fees and a research grant.

More information on the School of Biosciences and Medicine.

Entry requirements

A First or Upper Second-Class Honours degree from the UK (or equivalent qualification from international Institutions) or Masters degree in a relevant subject area.

English language requirements: An IELTS Academic of 6.5 or above with 6 in each individual category (or equivalent qualification from other agencies).

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the online application portal for Biosciences and Medicine PhDs.

This project is part of the Faculty-funded studentship scheme and you can express interest in one or two of the projects available via this scheme. When completing your application, in place of a research proposal, please provide a 1-page (maximum) document containing the reference numbers(s), project title(s) and supervisor name(s) of the project or two projects you have selected, together with an explanation of your motivations for wanting to study for a PhD and your reasons for selecting the project(s) you have chosen.

The reference number for this project is FHMS PL - BM - 11.

For those interested in the project described above, we strongly encourage informal enquiries to be sent to Professor Gill Elliott ().


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