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  Intestinal immune reactivity of the cell wall fraction of Fusarium Venanatum (ref: RDFC23/HLS/APP/COMMANE)

   Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

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  Dr D Commane, Dr H Walden  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Aim: To evaluate the immune reactivity and the mechanisms of tolerance that might be associated with the cell wall fraction of Fusarium Venanatum.


The cell wall fraction of F. venanatum comprises relatively well defined 1,3/1,6 beta glucan and chitin fractions, and less well-defined mannoprotein fractions. These elements of the cell wall serve as microbe associated molecular patterns (MAMPs), recognisable by a variety of host immune cell pattern recognition receptors. In infection, these cell wall constituents activate inflammation and an immune response, However, we routinely consume fungal cell wall components, as yeast, mushrooms, or in the case of F. Venanatum, as mycoprotein.

When consumed as food, it is hypothesised that exposure to these MAMPs may help train the immune system, increasing immune surveillance and potentially decreasing inflammatory status.

Further, we have observed that these components of the fungal cell wall selectively, and arguably favourably, modify the activity of the gut microbiome and we hypothesise that these changes in microbiome function also steer the immune system.

In this Quorn / Northumbria fully funded 3-year PhD project we will address the following questions through a combination of in vitro study and human dietary intervention trials.

1.         Do fungal cell wall from F. venanatum elicit an immune response in vitro

2.         Do fungal cell wall components influence intestinal epithelial barrier function.

3.         Are the immune mediating effects of F. venenatum a consequence of gut microbial metabolites arising from the fermentation of the fungal cell wall 

4.         Can F. venanatum be exploited for human health in the context of immune surveillance and/or suppression of inflammatory state.

Impact: this project spans core UK research council priority themes across diet, microbiome, immunity and health. It is anticipated that the work arising will have wide academic interest, it will inform research priorities of our industrial partners and it will equip the student with a broad skill set, to work across these themes.

We seek an enthusiastic student with a background in immunology, nutritional sciences or microbiology. The student will benefit from interdisciplinary supervision in a research rich environment. They will be given training in human tissue culture, dietary intervention study and gut microbial ecology. The student will be expected to develop skills in academic writing, and data analysis, they will be required to present at research meetings and to publish findings of their project.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

•      Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non- UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.

•      Appropriate IELTS score, if required.

•      Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere or if they have previously been awarded a PhD.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see


Please note: All applications must include a covering letter (up to 1000 words maximum) including why you are interested in this PhD, a summary of the relevant experience you can bring to this project and of your understanding of this subject area with relevant references (beyond the information already provided in the advert). Applications that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDFC21/…) will not be considered.


Deadline for applications: 26th October 2023

Interviews: Mid November

Start Date: 8th January 2024

Northumbria University is committed to creating an inclusive culture where we take pride in, and value, the diversity of our doctoral students. We encourage and welcome applications from all members of the community. The University hold a bronze Athena Swan award in recognition of our commitment to advancing gender equality, we are a Disability Confident Employer, a member of the Race Equality Charter and are participating in the Stonewall Diversity Champion Programme. We also hold the HR Excellence in Research award for implementing the concordat supporting the career development of researchers.

Informal enquiries to Dr Daniel Commane [Email Address Removed]

Or Dr Hannah Walden [Email Address Removed]  

Biological Sciences (4) Food Sciences (15) Medicine (26)

Funding Notes

Each studentship supports a full stipend, paid for three years at UKRI rates (for 2023/24 full-time study this is £18,622 per year ) and full tuition fees. Only UK (home) candidates may apply.
* please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:
• Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
• have settled status, or
• have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
• have indefinite leave to remain or enter.
If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student.


1. Substituting meat for mycoprotein reduces genotoxicity and increases the abundance of beneficial microbes in the gut: Mycomeat, a randomised crossover control trial, Farsi, D., Gallegos, J., Koutsidis, G., Finnigan, T., Cheung, W., Muñoz-Muñoz, J., Commane, D. 1 Apr 2023, In: European Journal of Nutrition
2. The effects of substituting red and processed meat for mycoprotein on biomarkers of cardiovascular risk in healthy volunteers: an analysis of secondary endpoints from Mycomeat, Farsi, D., Lara Gallegos, J., Finnigan, T., Cheung, W., Muñoz-Muñoz, J., Commane, D. 25 Aug 2023, In: European Journal of Nutrition
3. Cross-feeding interactions between human gut commensals belonging to the Bacteroides and Bifidobacterium genera when grown on dietary glycans, Fernandez-Julia, P., Commane, D., Van Sinderen, D., Munoz-Munoz, J. 18 Mar 2022, In: Microbiome Research Reports
4. The nutritional impact of replacing dietary meat with meat alternatives in the UK: a modelling analysis using nationally representative data, Farsi, D., Uthumange, D., Munoz Munoz, J., Commane, D. 14 Jun 2022, In: British Journal of Nutrition
5. Chronic consumption of a blend of inulin and arabinoxylan reduces energy intake in an ad libitum meal but does not influence perceptions of appetite and satiety: a randomised control-controlled crossover trial, Collins, S., Gibson, G., Stainton, G., Bertocco, A., Kennedy, O., Walton, G., Commane, D. 1 Aug 2023, In: European Journal of Nutrition
6. Development of a prebiotic blend to influence in vitro fermentation effects, with a focus on propionate in the gut, Collins, S., Gibson, G., Kennedy, O., Walton, G., Rowland, I., Commane, D. 1 Aug 2021, In: FEMS Microbiology Ecology
7. Impact of dietary supplementation with resistant dextrin (NUTRIOSE®) on satiety, glycaemia, and related endpoints, in healthy adults, Hobden, M., Commane, D., Guérin-Deremaux, L., Wils, D., Thabuis, C., Martin-Morales, A., Wolfram, S., Dìaz, A., Collins, S., Morais, I., Rowland, I., Gibson, G., Kennedy, O. 1 Dec 2021, In: European Journal of Nutrition
8. Metabolic targets of watercress and PEITC in MCF-7 and MCF-10A cells explain differential sensitisation responses to ionising radiation, Giallourou, N., Rowland, I., Rothwell, S., Packham, G., Commane, D., Swann, J. 1 Sep 2019, In: European Journal of Nutrition
9. Modelling the role of microbial p-cresol in colorectal genotoxicity, Al Hinai, E., Kullamethee, P., Rowland, I., Swann, J., Walton, G., Commane, D. 4 May 2019, In: Gut Microbes

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