We are pleased to be working alongside colleagues in the new state-of-the-art Pears Building, Institute of Immunity & Transplantation, UCL.
Since opening in Summer 2021, the IIT has brought together world leading scientists, academic clinicians, and clinical trial specialists, with the primary aim of achieving the ambitious goal of becoming an international centre of excellence for immunology research to directly improve human health.
Our home in the IIT delivers spacious, light, and airy architecturally intriguing laboratory space and open plan, collaborative office space. The Institute provides productive partnerships between basic research and the wealth of clinical specimens from the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust due to its location and the drive of the people involved.
Something important to me, the cutting-edge laboratories have been specifically designed to not only facilitate high impact immunological research but to be environmentally friendly. The building itself has been fitted with solar panels to generate electricity for its running and a ‘brown’ roof to provide habitats for local wildlife.
The liver is our largest internal organ that acts as a central hub for many physiological processes. Accordingly, immune responses within the liver are tightly controlled to prevent unnecessary organ damage. Although the liver has an unrivalled ability to regenerate when injured, persistent injury or inflammation can lead to the build-up of scar tissue as it attempts to repair. The build-up of such scar tissue (largely made up of extracellular matrix proteins) can results in liver dysfunction and the development of fibrosis/cirrhosis. But why do we care? Since 2018, liver fibrosis (and associated chronic liver disease) features in the top ten causes of premature death in the UK and kills individuals ~19 years younger than cancer or heart disease.
The liver is home to a number of 'residents', that provide specialised
immune-surveillance and protection. We recently described a population of
long-lived, tissue-resident T cells that are equipped with the necessary
armoury to control hepatotropic infections, and showed that they can adapt
phenotypically and functionally depending on cues from their microenvironment.
In addition, the liver has a unique population of stromal cells, that when exposed to chronic injury become the master regulators of fibrosis. It is these overactivated stromal cells that differentiate into myofibroblasts that then produce excessive amounts of extracellular matrix proteins, causing the liver to increase in stiffness and functionality to ultimately deteriorate.
Here in the Pallett lab we are interested in understanding how tissue-resident T cells and the underlying stromal cells ‘co-operate and communicate’ in the setting of fibrosis. We are particularly focussing on how these ‘local intrahepatic cells’ interact in both the healthy and diseased human liver, asking questions such as “can tissue-resident T cell contribute to tissue damage and/or tissue repair?” and “whether we can we harness the pathways involved to develop improved treatments for patients?”.
We are proud to say we have a Silver LEAF (Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework) award.
LEAF is a standard set by UCL to improve the sustainability and efficiency of research laboratories. Why do we believe this is important? Research labs are resource intensive - a typical lab will consume 3-10 times more energy per m2 than standard office spaces, so we do our best to make our space more environmentally sustainable.
To read more about LEAF, click here. And for resources and materials to improve your own lab space, click here
As well as our laboratory research, I also have a huge passion for data analytics and data science. With data being generated at ever greater volume and fidelity, advanced analytic techniques are becoming more and more important in immunological research.
With this in mind, I co-authored a book in 2018 called "Data Science for Immunologists", aimed at medical researchers and immunologists introducing key concepts in programming, statistics and machine learning.
You can read more about Data Science for Immunologists here
Love Immunology, and want to learn more? Check out these fantastic online seminars.
Global Immunotalks (@globalimmuno)
Hosted live each Wednesday 9am PST, 12pm EST, 5pm GMT with a Q&A session with the speakers via Twitter (follow the hashtag #globalimmuno) Or find all previous talks posted on the Global Immunotalks Youtube page https://www.youtube.com/c/GLOBALIMMUNOTALKS
Early Career Immunology Digital Seminar Series (@EarlyImmunology)
Streamed live (and recorded) via Youtube. Subscribe for updates at https://www.earlycareerimmunology.com
laura.pallett (@) ucl.ac.uk