Innate lymphoid cells: promoting homeostasis and preventing gut dysbiosis
Dr Rebecca Payne
I propose to study a group of children with rare genetic disorders of the immune system where the only cure is haematopoietic stem-cell transplant. A serious complication of this is graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), in which the transplanted immune cells attack the host’s organs, particularly the bowel. Innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) are a small group of white blood cells that are important in protecting barrier surfaces, such as the gut, from bacterial invasion.
My key goals are to identify whether ILCs also have a role in mediating signals between bacteria in the gut and other immune cells. By exploring this process I hope to better understand how dysregulated immune cells can drive immune complications in transplant recipients. To achieve this I will determine whether ILCs have different characteristics in children who have a complicated or a smooth transplant course. I will correlate the levels of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut during transplant with the behaviour of the transplanted immune cells, and I will explore whether signals from bacteria can teach ILCs to behave differently towards other immune cells.
Through this work I hope to identify how ILCs can be manipulated to treat or prevent human inflammatory diseases.