Funded PhD available – investigating extracellular vesicles as novel tools to monitor and treat cystic fibrosis

Neutrophil-dominated airway inflammation occurs from an early age in cystic fibrosis (CF), before recognised clinical symptoms, and contributes significantly to disease progression and shortened life expectancy.

  • Principal investigator(s) Judith Coppinger
  • Research theme Respiratory Medicine

Although often asymptomatic, up to 50% of children with CF can have bronchial wall thickening/bronchiectasis. In addition to impairment of ion transport via the CFTR channel, epithelial dysfunction early in CF initiates an inflammatory cascade leading to migration of neutrophils from blood into the airways.

Our long-term goal is to better understand mechanisms of epithelium/neutrophil communication that drive early CF disease. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are a heterogenous group of nanoparticles that harbour cargo molecules including RNA, lipids and proteins. They can transfer cargo to recipient cells and act as key mediators of intercellular communication, particularly between epithelium and neutrophils in CF.

Our central hypotheses are that: EVs are disease-specific markers reflecting tissue inflammation in CF airways and are responsive to CFTR modulator therapy. This project aims to:

  1. Establish EV specific response to therapy in CF airways to identify novel EV targets, and
  2. Test if modulating EV targets using RNA/drugs reduces inflammation in preclinical CF human lung models.

Funding: Science Foundation Ireland
Duration: Four-year PhD

Mandatory specification

  • PhD: Upper Second Class (2.1) honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.

Desirable specification

  • Some research experience in a laboratory is preferable.
  • Techniques including the following would be helpful:
    -Cell culture
    -Immunoblotting
    -Basic assays for inflammatory markers (ELISA), etc
    -Some knowledge of omics (proteomics)
    -EV isolation experience desirable but not essential
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