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PhD studentship: comparing immune cells

Led by: Prof Chris Ponting, MRC Human Genetics Unit, University of Edinburgh

Aims: Prof Ponting will supervise a PhD student who will compare immune cells (T cells) from people with M.E. with those from controls.

These samples will draw from the UK M.E. Biobank. The aim of the project is to set up a cutting-edge approach that investigates whether a person with M.E. differs in their T cell repertoire from healthy controls. This is important because such differences could indicate an ongoing response to infection or autoimmunity.

Alongside Prof Ponting, the successful PhD applicant will work with Dr Lia Chappell, Wellcome Sanger Institute and Prof Georg Holländer, University of Oxford.They will engage directly with people affected by M.E., including blogger and advocate Simon McGrath, and the UK CFS/M.E. Research Collaborative, of which Prof Ponting is Deputy Chair; and blog directly on the progress being made.

Prof Ponting says: “The study was inspired by initial findings by Mark M. Davis, Director of the Stanford Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection, and we intend to replicate his experiments but at a greatly expanded scale. By investigating many cells from many people, this new research could help us stratify M.E./CFS into different sub-groups, which in turn could help with targeting treatments more effectively.”

Cost: The total cost of this project is £90,000, jointly funded by the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office and Action for M.E., made possible by donations to our Clare Francis Research Fund.

Length of study: Three years

Study begins: June 2018

Other information: The Scottish Government’s Chief Scientist’s Office led the research call for this studentship and the assessment of applications, following our agreement to jointly fund a PhD studentship over three years with a total value of £90,000.

We are also working with Prof Ponting on DecodeME, the world's largest DNA M.E./CFS project.