Background and Research Environment. The IEE Research Group focuses on elucidating the molecular, immune and epigenetic mechanisms that link the early life exposome to negative lifelong health trajectories (developmental origins of health and disease). The team are particularly interested in the long-term effects of early-life exposure to adversity such as pollutants, abuse, and poor psychosocial and socioeconomic conditions. In order to understand the long-term consequences of such negative conditions in early-life, we use an interdisciplinary holistic approach, integrating data from multiple physiological systems to understand how the early life environment induces a lifelong-programmed phenotype. Our work depends upon successful collaborations with psychologists, psychobiologists, sociologists, and economists to place biological mechanisms underneath societal problems and the health and disease inequalities that they cause.
Objectives: The psychosocial, socioeconomic and wider external environment influence immune-senescence and inflammaging, and have been associated with asthma, allergy, type 2 diabetes, mental disorders (depression, schizophrenia) as well as cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Poor life conditions are perhaps the most powerful driver of immune ageing. Previously we have shown how early-life adversity accelerates immunological ageing in adulthood with concurrent immune-senescence and altered numbers of circulating lymphocytes at baseline. The question remains as to whether this is limited to adversity in early-life or whether it operates lifelong. One hundred adversity-discordant MZ twin pairs will undergo a detailed biological characterisation including a complete CyToF 30-member panel unbiased immune profiling and DNA methylation analyses in the recently funded project “ImmunoTwin”. While the ImmunoTwin project will focus on the overall immunophenotype, this PhD project will participate in ImmunoTwin data collection (CyToF), and then extract NK cell data, further exploring our recent data where psychosocial adversity reduced NK cell cytotoxicity, degranulation ability, and increased their senescence. Using Immunotwin material, scRNA-Seq will be performed on NK cells from a limited number of participants, and furthermore, epigenetic DNA methylation profiles will be obtained from selected cell populations.
Relevant recent publications
Fernandes et al., Frontiers in Immunology 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34394074/
Elwenspoek et al., Development and Psychopathology 2020. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31407649/
Elwenspoek et al., J. Immunol 2017 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29133294/
Elwenspoek et al., Frontiers in Immunology 2017 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29089944/
Key Skills, Experience and Qualifications
- Master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences, Biology, Medicine, or other related fields
- Curious as to how we adapt to our environment, and the developmental origins of health and disease
- Interested in working in a truly international and interdisciplinary project team
- Independent and self-motivated person, scientific creativity and originality, strong team spirit and collaborative capacity, excellent time management, rigour, perseverance, strong writing skills.
- Fluency in English is mandatory
The successful candidate will join a highly dynamic research environment and get access to several core facilities and relevant state-of-the-art technologies. S/he will benefit from an active seminar program, international conference attendances and opportunities to collaborate with psychologists, psychobiologists, sociologists, and economists.
Scientific contact: Dr. Jonathan D. Turner, Department of Infection and Immunity, email@example.com
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