29 July 2020

The Healthy Lifespan Institute receives funding from prestigious foundation to identify molecular inhibitors of inflammation in autoimmune and age-related diseases

The Healthy Lifespan Institute at the University of Sheffield has received full funding for a new PhD studentship from the Lorna and Yuti Chernajovsky Biomedical Research Foundation.

Young scientist working with a microscope in a laboratory. Young scientist doing some research.

The Healthy Lifespan Institute at the University of Sheffield has received full funding for a new PhD studentship from the Lorna and Yuti Chernajovsky Biomedical Research Foundation.

The Healthy Lifespan Institute brings together a wealth of expertise in multimorbidity, frailty and healthy ageing and is excited to mentor a new generation of research leaders.

The Chernajovsky Foundation funds pioneering research into the creation of new targeted medicines to improve health. The studentship will last three and a half years and will be under the supervision of two leading Sheffield academics Dr Heather Wilson and Professor Endre Kiss-Toth, along with Dr Gareth Richards, and Institute Co-Director Professor Ilaria Bellantuono.

The student, known as the Chernajovsky scholar, will study a project titled “Targeting the STING-mediated DNA-sensing pathway to suppress Autoimmunity & Inflammageing”. This area of research is important to support our understanding of ageing and autoimmune diseases such as Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) – lupus.

A protein called STING is able to sense damaged DNA produced by ageing cells or in autoimmune conditions. If damage has occurred, STING causes the cell to produce inflammatory cytokine molecules. This uncontrolled inflammation can cause significant tissue damage. STING also interacts with another protein making the inflammation stronger. When this other protein is blocked, STING no longer induces cytokine secretion thus reducing inflammation.

Starting in October, the student will work to find small molecules that stop the interaction between STING and its partner protein. In the laboratory they will research whether small molecules can reduce inflammation produced by ageing cells or by cells from patients with autoimmune disease.

Identifying a number of small molecules that can block inflammation offers the opportunity to develop new therapies to dampen inflammation in autoimmunity and in age-related disease. 

This new funding will provide us with an exciting opportunity to build on our research where we identified a mechanism to dampen inflammation in autoimmunity, and to expand this into reducing inflammation that occurs in ageing. The project builds on collaborations developed through the Healthy Lifespan Institute. We are excited to work with Professor Ilaria Bellantuono on ageing and Dr Gareth Richards on drug development pipelines.

Dr Heather Wilson

Healthy Lifespan Institute member from the Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease at the University of Sheffield

We believe that research has the power to enable people to live longer and healthier lives and are delighted to be funding a PhD student at the University of Sheffield’s Healthy Lifespan Institute who will drive science into the future.

Dr Lorna Chernajovsky

Trustee of the Chernajovsky Foundation

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