Dr Joanne Konkel
Joanne was awarded a BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship, made possible through initial pump-priming of her work by the ISSF via a Stepping Stones Fellowship.
Mucosal barrier sites pose a particular challenge for the immune system. These barriers, such as the oral mucosa, are sites of frequent pathogen invasion but also home to diverse commensal microbial communities.
As such, the immune system must be carefully tailored to the tissue microenvironment to limit aberrant responses while allowing for rapid development of an immune response to protect against the invader. Failure to achieve this has pathological consequences such as the development of periodontitis. Consequently, specialised immune cell networks have developed to help mediate effective immunological control of these dynamic barrier environments.
My research programme focuses on understanding how the immune system is tailored to the unique mucosal barrier surfaces of the oral cavity. To mediate immune homeostasis at barrier sites, conventional and unconventional immune cells are present which are locally conditioned by the microenvironment.
Our recent work has examined the development and differentiation of T cells at barrier sites, understanding how barrier-specific cues, in particular the cytokine TGFβ, educates these cells about their unique environment and drives them to adopt specific phenotypic and functional characteristics.
This award provided me with opportunity to begin my independent research programme, with the University providing support for myself, experiments, research space, and access to excellent core facilities.Dr Joanne Konkel / BBSRC David Phillips Fellow
Moreover, we have recently identified a novel mechanism by which Th17 cell generation is supported at the oral barrier, outlining that Th17 cell development is controlled by distinct signals at different mucosal barrier sites.
Having recently been awarded a BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship, ongoing work in my group utilises parallel studies in humans and mice to mechanistically understand the signals that are required to establish the immunological network which polices the oral barrier, delineating how local cues train immune function at this unique barrier site.
This has all been made possible through initial pump-priming of my work by The University of Manchester via a Stepping Stones Fellowship. This award provided me with opportunity to begin my independent research programme, with the University providing support for myself, experiments, research space, and access to excellent core facilities.
Importantly, the Stepping Stones award provided me with the opportunity to secure additional funding for my research, and as such, this local award was the catalyst that allowed me to establish my independent group.