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Unlocking immunity and infection – School of Medicine

Professor Andy SewellProfessor Andy Sewell

Research into immunity and infection at the School of Medicine was boosted by a £3 million pound award from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). An internationally recognised team from the School of Medicine, led by Professor Andy Sewell, will further their world-leading work into T-cells, which perform essential roles in the human immune system.

T-cells control and protect us from infection, are vital in the natural eradication of cancer and hold the key to successful vaccinations. They can also malfunction and when this occurs, they are believed to cause autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Autoimmunity is typically chronic, progressively debilitating and there are no current cures. These diseases generate huge human and financial costs.

The grant allows Professor Sewell and his team to examine how individual T-cells recognise huge numbers of foreign antigens (known as cross-reactivity). This essential cross-reactivity is enabled because the receptor molecule on the T-cell surface is highly promiscuous and can recognise many similar molecular ‘shapes’. Improved understanding will take doctors closer to improved treatments.