My group at the Centre for Immunology aims to translate immunogenetic findings from discovery to clinical practice. We have used genome wide association studies to identify genetic variants which affect risk of multiple sclerosis, hepatitis C infection and response to drugs. We have used transcriptomic, flow cytometric and cell culture approaches to investigate why genetic variants affect the immune response. This has identified pathogenic processes which we now propose to investigate further, leveraging off the genetic findings. We are located in the new Westmead Millennium Building, co-located with the Centre for Virology and the Storr Liver Unit. Our director is Prof Graeme Stewart, and we closely collaborate with Prof Steve Vucic, who runs the MS clinic at Westmead Hospital. We also collaborate with immunologists at the Garvan Institute, nationally (eg the ANZgene consortium) and internationally (eg. the International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium). We offer 3 projects for postgraduate studies.
The genes regulating vitamin D metabolism affect risk of MS. We have shown that this could be due to reduced production of tolerogenic dendritic cells in the secondary lymphoid organs, especially the cervical lymph nodes. This production is also affected by environmental factors such as season and infection, by immune cell subset states and numbers, and by other genetic factors. This project, leveraging off our recent Chipseq findings and EAE experiments with CYP27B1 cell subset specific knockout mice, and a clinical trial using UVB, aims to find how vitamin D regulates protection from MS at a molecular and cellular level. This could lead to more targeted therapy, identification of novel biomarkers of the vitamin D - induced immune cell state, and to personalized therapy. The techniques utilized will be generation, curation and application of biobanks, genotyping, flow cytometry, RTPCR, methylation, cell subset sorting and culture.
The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 857