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Cristina Dumitru

DPhil student

My fascination with medical science started when working at the street corner pharmacy and it has taken me on a journey through the wards of busy NHS hospitals, the R&D department of a beauty company and the clinical trials unit of big pharma. I have enjoyed each and every one of these experiences as they have ultimately led me to develop a keen interest in understanding the immunological mechanisms involved in maintaining human health.

I am working with two fantastic mentors Prof. Kevin Maloy, now at the University of Glasgow, and Prof. Katja Simon, at the Kennedy Institute in Oxford. I am extremely grateful to have been awarded the Norman Heatley scholarship from the Dunn School of Pathology to fund my current research.

My PhD project is investigating how autophagy regulates immune responses in the intestine. The gut represents a puzzle for our immune system: it must constantly monitor a vast surface (the area of a tennis court) for the presence of pathogens, whilst simultaneously tolerating trillions of beneficial bacteria and innocuous food antigens. Inappropriate immune responses in the gut can lead to inflammatory bowel disease, a debilitating chronic disease with no current cure. Whilst, we do not fully understand why these harmful immune responses arise, populations studies have revealed that mutations in the autophagy pathway make inflammatory bowel disease more likely to develop, but exactly how they do so remains unclear.