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The University of Southampton
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Dr Tilman Sanchez-Elsner PhD

Associate Professor in Biomedicine

Dr Tilman Sanchez-Elsner's photo

Dr Tilman Sanchez-Elsner is an Associate Professor in Biomedicine within Medicine at the University of Southampton.

I am a molecular biologist with an interest in gene expression. This encompasses, control of epigenetics, transcription and microRNA regulation of genes. As an Associate Professor in Biomedicine, I combine my training with the unique environment offered by the Faculty of Medicine in Southampton, which gives access to clinical samples and expertise. I am thus involved in finding the molecular signatures of several diseases such as asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and cancer.

Tilman Sanchez-Elsner studied Biology at the Universidad Complutense of Madrid, Spain, pursuing the PhD in the same University at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (June 2002). The actual research thesis work was carried out under the supervision of Dr Carmelo Bernabeu and Luisa M. Botella, in the Centro de Investigaciones Biologicas (Madrid), belonging to the Spanish Research Council. During his PhD, Tilman focused on the transcriptional control of angiogenesis and repair in human, describing the co-operation between two transcription factors, HIF-1a (Hypoxia Inducible Factor) and Smad3 (which mediates TGF-a inducible responses).

After his PhD, and being interested in a more global kind of regulation of transcription, he then moved into the field of epigenetics. He was a postdoctoral fellow (2002-2006) at the University of California at Riverside, working with Dr Frank Sauer. Here, he described a novel non-coding RNA, crucial for the epigenetic control of the fruit fly development. As a result of the work with non-coding RNAs and the contact with expert groups in the field (Dr. Sowei Ding, Dr Juan Diaz-Pendon), he became interested in the field of MicroRNAs.
He was then interested in applying the acquired knowledge to the human model, and more specifically, to work in Immunology and hematopoietic development. He started working in the field of microRNAs since 2006, in the lab of Dr A.L. Corbi, as a senior postdoc. In this lab, he acquired expertise in the immunological techniques, as well as in the field of MicroRNAs.

Finally, he decided to develop his own independent research. His goal was to liaise to the clinical world, in order to apply the acquired knowledge to understand the molecular basis of clinical issues. For this reason, he joined the University of Southampton, as a Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences of the Division of Infection, Inflammation and Repair (School of Medicine) in August 2007. He is currently engaged in several projects related to microRNA expression and function.

Research interests

MicroRNAs in Innate Immunity

We are interested in the role of microRNAs in innate immunity (macrophages, mostly) and its implication in several pathologies. There have been recent advances in the field, pointing out an important role for these small non-coding RNAs during development and in disease. Together with several of the researchers of the Faculty of Medicine, we are trying to determine the involvement of certain MicroRNAs in pathologies that implicate an imbalance in the immune response (in lung, skin, kidney, gut). We have already shown that miR-155, a pro-inflammatory microRNA, inhibits the IL13 and TGF-beta pathways and reduces pathogen binding by dendritic cells. These are important aspects in the role of immunity in cancer, asthma and Inflammatory Bowel disease. We are currently working on the dysregulation of a number of microRNAs that form networks and are master keys for the immune response. Finding out how to control these microRNAs (particularly those contained in exosomes) may help develop future targeted therapies.

Cross-disciplinary research

We are currently very excited about the impact that machine learning can have in how we can study mRNA translation into protein, together with Professor Mahesan Niranjan (ECS). We are trying to determine why some mRNAs are poorly translated, at a global level, and what is the biological impact of such mismatch between mRNA and protein expression. As part of the cross-disciplinary interest of the group we have generated interesting results in the transfection of cell using sonic waves with a sonoporation chamber . Together with engineers in Chemistry, we have designed and developed a microfluidic chamber that allows us to monitor, in real time, the interaction of immune cells (dendritic cells and macrophages, so far) with pathogens. We expect this field to be a useful and general tool for medical and research applications in the future. Finally, a result of an interdisciplinary collaboration with the School of Physics and Astronomy, we have developed different strategies involving the use of functionalised nanoparticles to answer current molecular biology and clinical challenges.

Research group

Clinical and Experimental Sciences

Affiliate research groups

Respiratory and allergy Research group, Centre For cancer Immunology

4 Year PhD programme “Immunity and Infection” module leader.

4 Year PhD programme “Immunity and Infection” research project coordinator.

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4 Year PhD programme of the “Immunity and Infection” pathway in the following areas:

Basic research Skills (development of a Hypothesis)
Lecturing at the Cell Biology taught module
Coordinating and second marking the Immunity and Infection taught module.
Coordinating the research project rotation of the students.

BM4 facilitates Problem Based Learning to small groups of students.

Dr Tilman Sanchez-Elsner
Faculty of Medicine, Room AB215, Mailpoint 801, South Academic Block, University Hospital Southampton, Tremona Road, Southampton, SO16 6YD

Room Number : SGH/LE60/MP813

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