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Neutrophils, TLR4 and Streptococcus pneumoniae and RSV co-infection of airway epithelial cells

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, November 29, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

A 3-year PhD Studentship is available within the Respiratory, Critical Care and Anaesthesia Section, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health under the supervision of Dr Claire Smith, and Professor Rosalind Smyth to start on 1st September 2020, or earlier.

The purpose of the proposed investigation:
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a major cause of respiratory infections in children under the age of 5.
For most children, the illness is relatively mild, causing symptoms like a bad cold, often with wheezing and coughing. But a significant minority, mostly babies under six months of age, develop pneumonia and sometimes even respiratory failure. They can end up spending long periods in intensive care on mechanical ventilators.

While most children do recover, the impact of their illness on their physical and mental wellbeing can be considerable. Sadly, for the most vulnerable, such as premature babies, RSV infection can be life threatening. There is also a possible association between RSV infection in infancy and subsequent development of secondary bacterial infections.

It has been shown that RSV targets epithelial cells in the human airway to infect the lung. We also know that, one of the major types of white blood cells, the neutrophil, is found in large numbers in the airways of the lungs of children with severe RSV bronchiolitis. It is not known whether this influx of neutrophils and inflammatory response produced is appropriate and necessary to clear the RSV infection or whether it is excessive and damaging to the lung tissue. We have developed a model in the lab where we can study airway epithelial cells infected with RSV and the impact of neutrophil on viral clearance. In this way it is possible to replicate the conditions of an RSV infected airway within a laboratory environment.

Using this model we can study the interaction between the neutrophil and RSV infected epithelial cell. This project will examine function and bactericidal responses of neutrophils in response to RSV infection of human airway epithelial cells, specifically looking at how neutrophil function changes in response to RSV and secondary bacterial infection. This will allow a better understanding of what role neutrophils play during severe infection. Identifying whether the changes the neutrophils undergo are helping infected lungs to clear the pathogens, or are damaging them and contributing to inflammation.

Project Description - See

The project would be suitable for a student with a BSc in Molecular/Cell Biology, Immunology, Microbiology or similar discipline. Applicants should have, or expect to receive a first class honours or an upper second class degree, and should be ordinarily resident in the UK or EU. Knowledge and experience of working with mammalian cells is required. Knowledge of basic Microbiology and Immunology techniques is beneficial. The student will receive a stipend of £17,009 per annum as well as the cost of tuition fees at the UK/EU rate.

To apply, please send a current CV including the contact details of two professional referees as well as a cover letter to Elena Paci (). Enquiries regarding the post can be made to Dr Claire Smith ()

Deadline for receipt of applications: 29th November 2019

How good is research at University College London in Clinical Medicine?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 449.74

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