At CNR, Mariusz and Gergo are investigating the response of innate immune cells and epithelial cells on different inflammatory stimuli. They have assembled and characterised epithelial monolayer on appropriate porous membrane supports. This knowledge will be used to finalise the in vitro co-culture model.
At AvantiCell Science Ltd. Elfi is currently working on human colon epithelial cells derived from human colonoids. Furthermore, she is optimizing the co-culture conditions for human tissue-like macrophages and (myo)fibroblasts, as part of the final assembled model of the healthy human colon. James has characterised human trachea epithelial cells, which were developed into a suitable and stable monolayer. He is currently optimising co-culture parameters before including human monocytes to a final human trachea model.
In April 2016, Elfi and James promoted science to primary school children during a practical and educational outreach session at Muirhead Primary School, Troon, Scotland. The feedback from school staff and children was very positive as they looked forward to the next visit. Similarly, Mariusz and Gergo are taking active participation in IBP School Day to promote the scientific interest among teenagers. During these events all fellows showed how to isolate DNA from strawberries.
HUMUNITY (Cell-Based Models of Human Mucosal Immunity with Multiple Commercial Applications) is a PhD school which shall train young scientists in advanced human cell culture and analysis, and teach the processes for their translation into industrially-exploitable and medically-useful tools. The scientific goal is to develop advanced cell-biological models in which cultured human primary cells mimic the architecture and the interactions of the original tissue. Specifically, students will develop novel systems in which the innate inflammatory response to agents presented at mucosal surfaces (lung, gut) can be studied in both healthy and pathological conditions. These culture systems will deliver preclinical models with multiple applications, from testing of candidate therapeutics or health-promoting agents to screening for health risk from environmental or dietary contaminants. Collectively, these models shall robustly reproduce the reactivity of human tissues in vivo, thereby reducing significantly the need of animal experimentation.
HUMUNITY aims at delivering industry-oriented PhD training in the field of advanced in vitro models. The four selected Early-Stage Researchers (ESRs) will experience an intersectoral training programme encompassing a 18-month internship in a UK SME (AvantiCell Science Ltd., ACS), expert in isolation and culture of human primary cells, and 18 months in the Laboratory of Cytokines and Innate Immunity of the Italian National Research Council (CNR). Secondments to the associated partners University of Pisa (UNIPI, Italy) and Paris-Lodron University of Salzburg (PLUS, Austria) are planned during the fellowships. Students will be enrolled in the PhD programme of PLUS, will engage in training-by-research, and will participate in a series of scientific and technical training courses provided by each institution. Fellows will also participate jointly in scientific meetings and complementary skills courses organised by the associated management partner ALTA. The trainees will also gain experience in transferring their technology to relevant industry sectors from pharmaceutical through food and healthcare to environmental safety.