Understanding how T Follicular Helper Cells Tailor in Health and Disease

Project type

  • PhD and Graduate Research Masters

Project details

Our immune system is exceptionally flexible. Heterogeneity in immune responses enables the clearance and protection against distinct infection types, such as viral, bacterial, fungal, and helminth infections. In all these infectious scenarios, CD4+ T follicular helper (Tfh) cells play a critical role in promoting the generation of high-affinity class-switched antibodies, long-lived plasma cells and memory B cells. However, the precise mechanisms though which Tfh cells orchestrate tailored B cell responses in a pathogen-specific manner remain poorly understood. Our lab is working to define the cellular and molecular regulators of functional Tfh heterogeneity and understand their impact the adaptive immune response.

This project will apply our new understanding of Tfh diversity to test how distinct Tfh populations tailor the adaptive immune response in a range of settings including vaccination and reinfection, chronic viral infection and cancer immunotherapy, immunodeficiency and asthma. This will use both human cohort samples and animal models to understand how Tfh diversity modulates immune outcome and how this can be therapeutically targeted to improve patient health.

Techniques to be used: Human cohort samples, chronic viral infection and cancer models, flow cytometry, imaging, ELISA, molecular and bioinformatic analysis.

About our research group

Our immune system consists of dedicated immune cells that collaborate to protect against infection and disease. T cells are orchestrators of immune responses and require multiple interactions with distinct partner cells to steer their function. Our laboratory dissects these interactions over the life of a T cell.

We aim to identify how T cell interactions:

  • Determine how the clearance of pathogens or cancer cells are tailored between infections and go awry in asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus; and
  • Understand how memory cells are generated and maintained for long-lived vaccine protection.

Our goal is to apply this knowledge to therapeutically promote protection from infection and discover new avenues to overcome cancer, asthma and autoimmunity.

Education pathways