Chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract (or gut) is a debilitating condition that underlies major diseases in humans and animals, ranging from allergies to chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), liver disease and cancer. The use of advanced, cutting edge microscopy and 4D (3D over time) cell imaging is a powerful new method for interrogating the changes in epithelial cells and immune cells in the gut wall throughout the stages of inflammation and for identifying molecules that control inflammation. This imaging will make use of innovative systems for visualising  and monitoring the gut mucosa by establishing inflammation in perfused tissues, organoids (mini-guts) grown in the laboratory and model organisms. The outcomes will advance our understanding of gut inflammation and reveal specific molecules as potential drug targets.  

A powerful use of these models and imaging is to assess the behaviour of anti-inflammatory peptide-based drugs in a gut environment, as a novel strategy for pre-clinical testing of putative drugs. This project will involve collaborative research with the group of Prof David Craik (IMB) who is currently developing novel peptide-based drugs for use in IBD. Unlike most peptides and proteins, these drug leads show high stability in the gut environment – the models and imaging techniques developed in the project will provide new exciting approaches for studying peptide stability, distribution and function. The project will provide translational training and skills in a high-tech, multi-disciplinary environment and can be offered as a fundamental research project and/or a drug-development focussed project. This project is suited to students with a background in either cell biology or peptide chemistry.