Dr Martin Turner (right), Head of the Immunology programme at the Institute, has been awarded a prestigious Wellcome Trust Investigator Award. The awards recognise researchers internationally regarded as leaders in their fields and offer flexible funding support to researchers working on important questions of relevance to understanding health and disease.
The award will enable Dr Turner to investigate how a particular type of immune cell, B cells (also known as B lymphocytes), produce antibodies. The work will be undertaken in collaboration with researchers at the University of Cambridge.
Our immune system protects us from infection by micro-organisms such as viruses, bacteria and fungi as well as larger parasites such as malaria and worms. Vaccination or immunisation has the goal of generating immunity without the need for infection by the disease-causing organism. One important aspect of vaccination is the production of antibodies by a special class of cells called B lymphocytes.
In addition to recognising germs, antibodies can also react against our own tissues and promote autoimmune diseases, or they create allergies through responses to common substances that do not pose a threat to our well-being. By studying the genes that control antibody production we will be able to understand how B lymphocytes work. Dr Turner’s research will focus on the role of a class of proteins called RNA binding proteins.
As explained by Dr Turner: “By studying where in B lymphocytes the RNA binding proteins are located, their physical interactions with other proteins and how they are required for B lymphocyte function we will be able to improve our understanding of the basic molecular biology of these cells. This knowledge could promote approaches to altering B lymphocyte function in health and disease.”
Professor Michael Wakelam, Director of the Institute, said: “During his time at the Institute Martin has developed novel areas of research in immunology by adopting molecular biological approaches to gain a mechanistic understanding of immune cell development. This approach has allowed him to make key contributions to our understanding of immune cell signalling and the regulation of B cell gene expression. This award will support further research that will provide critical insights into B lymphocyte development and function.”
Further information on Dr Turner’s research is available on our research pages. The Wellcome Trust’s website contains a complete list of award recipients.
Two B lymphocytes which have been labelled with fluorescent dyes to show the locations of an RNA-binding protein (red) and RNA-containing cellular bodies (green). Blue staining shows the nuclei.
13 June 2016