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Tonia Vincent, Jelena Bezbradica and Alex Clarke have been awarded funding grants by the Medical Research Council (MRC) for different projects.

Tonia Vincent, Jelena Bezbradica Mirkovic and Alex Clarke
Tonia Vincent, Jelena Bezbradica Mirkovic and Alex Clarke

Tonia Vincent will carry out research that will aim to understand how microbes in the gut can protect joints from osteoarthritis. Although osteoarthritis will affect half of us during our lifetime, there are currently no effective drugs to treat the condition or completely alleviate any of the symptoms, so it is hoped that this research may point to new ways of preventing its development or progression.

On receiving the funding, Tonia said "We are very excited to acquire this funding for a project that started in my lab 14 years ago! The project will attempt to unravel how gut derived systemic metabolites alter osteoarthritis; an area that has immediate translational potential."

Jelena Bezbradica Mirkovic will study the NLRP3 – an intracellular sensor of infection and cellular stress important for antimicrobial defence. She said "Excessive NLRP3 activity either due to genetic mutations, or persistent activation, cause inflammation and resulting pathologies.  Therefore, understanding the endogenous licencing mechanisms that prevent unwanted, excessive NLRP3 responses is important. Our new MCR grant will allow us to characterise one such mechanism that limits NLRP3 activation. This work will help us understand why NLRP3 inflammasome sometimes gets uncontrollably activated, and how we may be able to restore the control over this pathway to reduce inappropriate inflammation."

Alex Clarke will study Graves disease, the most common cause of an overactive throid gland. One of the most serious complications of Graves disease is that it can cause swelling behind the eye, pushing it forward and in some cases threatening sight. Alex said about his research "We know antibodies are important in Graves' disease, but why some patient develop eye problems is unknown. In our study, we'll use single cell analysis techniques to understand how the tissues behind the eye change in active and inactive Graves' disease, and how antibody-producing cells interact with fibroblasts to influence this. This MRC award will allow us to build our research capacity across immune diseases and disciplines, and leverage the state-of-the-art science platforms available at the Kennedy Institute."

MEET THE TEAM

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