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.
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.