Wellcome Trust awards funding to explore how innate immune cells determine intestinal health and disease
Dr Matt Hepworth, Branch Lead for Immune Tolerance at The University of Manchester’s Lydia Becker Institute of Immunology and Inflammation, has been awarded a £2.8 million, 8-year Career Development Award (CDA) from the Wellcome Trust to conduct groundbreaking research into a rare type of innate immune cell – known as group 3 innate lymphoid cell (ILC3) – and their role in maintaining both intestinal and whole-body health.
The intestine is continually exposed to challenges from the diet, commensal microbiota or infectious microbes. As a result, the gut is also host to a complex network of immune cells that work together to enforce a state of tolerance and promote tissue health. Dr Hepworth’s team will build on their recent work to uncover new ways in which ILC3 orchestrate these immune responses in the gut and helps to maintain healthy tissue function while also preventing diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis, and colorectal cancer.
Speaking about the new award Dr Hepworth said “ILC3 are relatively rare immune cells whose roles have been somewhat mysterious until relatively recently. Research from our lab – and others across the globe – has begun to uncover the crucial roles these cells have in interacting with the wider immune system in ways that prevent disease. This award will allow us to comprehensively define the functions of these cells so we can harness and manipulate them to help treat chronic inflammatory diseases in people.”
Dr Matt Hepworth pictured in the AV Hill Building at The University of Manchester. Photo: Brian Chan
The award will fund research utilising next-generation technologies and in vivo models to reveal novel mechanisms of immune crosstalk, identify tissue niches and dissect the consequences of ILC3-mediated interactions in health, infection and inflammatory disease.
“This new award is further recognition of the exciting work Matt is driving in the field of mucosal immunology here at the Lydia Becker Institute. This new funding will help to uncover ways in which the immune system keeps the peace with its “good bacteria”, and conversely reveal what goes wrong with the immune system in patients who develop diseases such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease.”
Professor Tracy Hussell – Director, Lydia Becker Institute of Immunology and Inflammation
Dr Hepworth believes this program of research will result in a paradigm shift, enabling new insights into how ILCs and the broader immune system maintain the health of the gut and the whole body.
The Wellcome Trust’s prestigious Career Development Awards are awarded to researchers who have the potential to be international research leaders in their field. Funds enable them to develop their research capabilities, train the next generation of scientists, drive innovative programmes of work and deliver significant shifts in understanding that could improve human life, health and wellbeing.