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Julia Salafranca Gomez

DPhil student

Following my MSci in Immunology at the University of Glasgow, I joined the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology for my PhD in 2021 (funded by the Kennedy Trust Prize Studentship). 

My research focuses on the transcriptional control of neutrophil morphology and function during maturation. Neutrophils are key innate immune cells that act as our first line of defence against infection. They are the most abundant immune cells in the blood and rapidly respond to any insults via their effector functions. However, if dysregulated, neutrophils also contribute to inflammation and tissue damage, e.g. in rheumatic diseases. Currently, there are no neutrophilspecific therapies available in the clinic. Due to their key role in defence against infections, homeostasis and tissue repair, neutrophil-targeted immunotherapies should aim to reprogram neutrophils, rather than deplete them. Therefore, we need to gain a better understanding of the programmes driving neutrophil biology. 

Recent studies have shown that neutrophils are more complex than originally anticipated and present heterogeneity in disease. One of these subsets are neutrophils that have not yet reached maturity. Therefore, I am using the murine Hoxb8 cell line, which can be genetically modified, to study the molecular regulation of neutrophil maturation by imaging their nuclear morphology in 3D. Furthermore, I complement this work with both mouse models of arthritis and human samples to study neutrophil maturation and the transcription factors involved in this process to identify new therapeutic targets.

I am part of the Research into Inflammatory Arthritis Centre Versus Arthritis (RACE) program, a partnership between the Glasgow, Oxford, Birmingham, and Newcastle universities to research rheumatic diseases.

Finally, I am also very interested in Patient and Public Engagement and Involvement. During my PhD, I have organised a workshop to involve young people with rheumatic diseases in research (funded by Reuben college), an Art & Science Day at the Natural History museum as part as Science week and Brain Awareness week; and taken part in the Brilliant club, which delivers tutorials to support the access into highly competitive universities of less advantaged students.