Molecular determinants of intraepithelial lymphocyte function in intestinal infection

Year of award: 2017


  • Dr Mahima Swamy

    University of Dundee

Project summary

Our bodies are home to trillions of bacteria and most of them reside in our guts. Recent research has suggested a strong link between intestinal bacteria and inflammatory diseases including cardiovascular complaints, obesity, and inflammatory bowel diseases.

A single layer of epithelial cells forms the first line of defence in the gut and is the largest interface between microbes and our bodies. This layer of cells is interspersed with specialised immune cells that help to protect it. I will explore the function of these special cells, named intraepithelial lymphocytes (IEL), and investigate how they identify an epithelial cell that has been infected with a disease-causing microbe. I will explore the nature of the IEL response and how IEL kill infected cells. A clearer understanding of the early immune reaction that result from such pathogenic infections and the mechanisms used will help us understand how the immune system mounts an appropriate response to clear the disease.

This work will identify key factors that must be induced for efficient vaccine design against gut pathogens which could help us fight infectious diarrhoea, one of the leading causes of global morbidity.