B3 Giardia duodenalis – Dendritic cell interaction and intestinal barrier function (Aebischer/Schulzke)

Research Group: Robert Koch-Institute, Division 16 Mycotic and Parasitic Agents and Mycobacteria
& Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Campus Benjamin Franklin, Berlin
Address: FG16, Robert Koch-Institute, Nordufer 20, 13353 Berlin
Supervisors: Dr. T. Aebischer / Professor Dr. J.D. Schulzke
Doctoral Researcher: Martin Kraft

Project Description

Giardia duodenalis is not only the ‘oldest’ known protozoan parasite that Antony van Leeuwenhoek discovered in 1681 when investigating his feces in his pioneering use of one of the first microscopes, it also remains one of the most prevalent enteric protozoan parasites worldwide to date. Infection causes diarrhea which in a significant fraction of patients can become chronic, leads to malabsorption and, in young children, can cause of stunted growth. Despite its long history and its prevalence, to date, very little is understood of the pathogenesis underlying the disease manifestations.

This project aims at changing that and focuses on testing the hypothesis that human epithelial cells and tissue, dendritic cells of the immune system and Giardia parasites interact and provide mutual pivotal signals that affect their respective function which eventually leads to symptomatic disease. The investigate this relevant question, candidates will be able to exploit unique resources such as an available bank of recent clinical Giardia isolates and will be immersed in two research teams with expertise on the parasite and immune cells (at the RKI) and with experience on gastrointestinal epithelial barrier function.

Candidates will acquire a unique set of expert skills in 2D and 3D cell and tissue culture, in analysis techniques of epithelial barrier function (impedance spectroscopy, tracer fluxes, macromolecule uptake and pathogen translocation), in molecular approaches (biochemical & molecular biological) to monitor cell and parasite responses, and in advanced confocal microscopy to image infection related changes at tissue level. The project is best suited for candidates that combine a passion for parasitology with a deeper interest in immunology, cell biology and physiology.

Ankarklev J et al. Nat Rev Microbiol 2010;8:413; Banik S et al. I&I 2013;81:2309-17; Troeger H et al. Gut 2007;56:328-35; Schmitz H et al. J Cell Scie 1999;112:137-46; Hahn J et al. PloS one 2013;8:e71597.
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