Dr Emily Swindle is a research scientist with an interest in understanding the role of mast cells and epithelial cells in innate immunity and respiratory diseases including asthma. She develops in vitro models of the airway and collaborates with engineers and physical scientists to generate airway barrier microphysiological systems. She is a key member of the Pharmacology team delivering undergraduate teaching and also contributes to postgraduate teaching within the Faculty of Medicine.
- Mast cells
- Viral induced exacerbations of respiratory diseases
- Infection and allergy
- Microphysiological systems / organ on chip
Dr Swindle’s research focuses on building complex in vitro models of the airways incorporating structural cells and immune cells (including mast cells) to determine their role in viral-induced exacerbations of asthma. She has an interdisciplinary approach to her research with close collaborations with Electronic and Computer Sciences. There are 3 main areas of her research
Interaction of Bronchial Epithelial Cells with innate immune cells: Bronchial epithelial cells form a physical, chemical and immunological barrier of the airways which restricts the free passage of solutes and particles from the external to the internal environment. While epithelial barriers are key to maintaining healthy tissue, in many diseases these barriers become disrupted further compromising the tissue and leading to worsening of disease. Focusing on the epithelial barrier of the lungs, my research is focused on understanding the complex interaction between epithelial cells and other resident structural cells of the airway including fibroblast and resident immune cells including mast cells (MCs) during rhinovirus infection in asthma. These models of the airway use differentiated primary bronchial epithelial cells (BECs) and MCs from cord blood as well as cell lines. This will allow the elucidation of the complex interactions between resident immune cells and structural cells of the airways in the context of asthma exacerbations.
Understanding the role of mast cells in innate immunity: Mast cells are tissue-resident immune cells that are classically associated with the early phase reaction in allergic asthma. However, over the past 30 years there has been a growing realisation that mast cells are key drivers of innate immunity. Lying at the interface between the internal and external environment they sense pathogens and are key to the recruitment of inflammatory cells. While their role in bacterial induced immunity is established their role in viral immunity is not so clear. Current research is focused on elucidating the contribution of mast cells to respiratory virus infection including rhinovirus and the contribution of epithelial-derived cytokines on these responses.
Airway epithelial barrier microphysiological systems (MPS) – MPS are miniaturised models that combine microfluidics, engineering and cell biology to recreate certain aspects of organ physiology in vitro and are a promising alternative to conventional models. In collaboration with Prof Hywel Morgan an “airway barrier on chip” MPS that can monitor epithelial barrier integrity in real-time using electrical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) has been developed . The system uses microfluidics to recapitulate interstitial flow and includes a means for time-dependent sampling of cellular secretions. Monitoring the cells in real time with integrated electrodes provides data on the formation and disruption of the airway epithelial barrier. Lately the system has been developed to include droplet microfluidics for collection of cellular secretions which can provide time-dependent measurements of epithelial responses during differentiation and environmental exposure. New methods for delivery of challenges and compounds in a physiologically relevant manner to the apical surface have been developed using surface acoustic wave technology that generates aerosols. Combining microfluidics and cell biology provides a MPS that more closely recapitulates the physiological environment of the lung for understanding human (patho)physiological mechanisms, providing more predictive pre-clinical models for drug discovery and developing personalised medicine strategies.
Current PhD Students
Dr Emily Swindle is an enthusiastic and passionate lecturer. She has been part of the Pharmacology team at the Faculty of Medicine since 2013 delivering teaching (tutorials, practical’s and lectures) and assessment of clinical pharmacology across years 1 and 2 of the BMBS (BM4/5/6/EU) programme. She is also an academic coordinator for the Prescribing Safety Assessment (PSA) held in Southampton (led by Prof Sampson). Through her previous role as deputy module lead for the Endocrinology and Life Cycle (ELC) module (2015-2018) and now module lead for the Gastrointestinal (GI) module (since 2018) within year 2 of the BMBS (BM4/5/6/EU) programme she is responsible for all aspects of delivering a successful module (organising the timetable, contributors and content), contributing to assessment (exam question submission, marking, verification, moderation) and providing feedback to students. Emily is also involved in postgraduate teaching delivering lectures and conducting assessment within the MSc Allergy and MSc Biomedical programmes and is an internal and external PhD examiner. She continues to develop her teaching skills and was recently awarded ‘Most engaging lecturer’ at the SUSU Academic Awards 2022 (nominated by students).
External roles and responsibilities
Dr Emily Swindle is an Associate Professor in Pharmacology within the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton, UK.
She gained her PhD in Immunopharmacology from the University of Liverpool in 2003 under the supervision of Dr John Coleman studying the mechanisms of IgE-mediated mast cell (MC) activation. She then moved to the USA to undertake a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under the supervision of Dr Dean Metcalfe (MCBS, NIAID) to expand her studies of MC activation in allergic asthma and investigate MC responses to innate stimuli. On returning to the UK, she continued her interest in respiratory diseases undertaking research with Prof Donna Davies and Prof Hywel Morgan (IfLS) on an interdisciplinary project monitoring the epithelial barrier by electrical impedance spectroscopy using a novel microphysiological system (MPS). In 2010, Emily was awarded a career track fellowship by the Faculty of Medicine to investigate the interaction of MCs with bronchial epithelial cells (BECs) in viral-induced exacerbations of asthma. In 2013, she was appointed a Lecturer in Pharmacology and in 2018 an Associate Professor in Pharmacology. Her research focuses on building complex in vitro models of the airway incorporating structural cells (epithelial cells) and immune cells (mast cells) to understand their contribution to viral-induced exacerbations of asthma. She is a mast cell and epithelial cell biologist by training and has worked in the interdisciplinary lung-on-chip field for over 10 years working closely with physical scientists who have developed the technology.
- Most Engaging Lecturer (2022)