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A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Close date
Friday, 21 February 2020
Academic background
Sciences, Health Sciences
Host campus
Pathology and Biomedical Science (Christchurch)
Dr Sandy Slow, Dr Aaron Stevens


In New Zealand Legionella longbeachae infection is the predominant cause of Legionnaires' disease, a severe and often fatal form of pneumonia. L. longbeachae is a ubiquitous environmental bacterium that is commonly found in soil and composted plant material. In humans, lung macrophages can become infected following exposure to contaminated materials and those most at risk of infection are gardeners. Infection is not contagious and is solely acquired from environmental sources. This project aims to investigate the biological process of immune cell response during pathogenic invasion by Legionella longbeachae.

Emerging evidence is suggesting that epigenetic programming is an important factor that might contribute to short-term memory in immune cells and aid in determining cell response during re-exposure to pathogens. Methylated cytosine is an important epigenetic modification of DNA that directs how genes are expressed, and may also be altered through interactions with environmental stimuli, such as bacterial invasion. This research will investigate whether pathogenic invasion by Legionella longbeachae alters the pattern of DNA methylation in human macrophage cells, and may provide important biological insights into the mechanisms of immune response. This could aid in the future development of therapeutic treatment options or biomarker development.

The project will involve both a combination of laboratory-based techniques, including cell culture and assessment of viability and proliferation, along with measurement of changes in the pattern of DNA modification using state of the art, array-based technology. Bioinformatic analysis will be necessary, and will require data analysis and visualisation in R.

Preferred student expertise: We are seeking a student who has an interest in biochemistry or molecular biology with an understanding of epigenetic modifications. A knowledge of statistics with a basic understanding and experience in the use of R will also be an advantage.

Further information

This is one of a number of projects on offer for the 2020 intake of BBiomedSc(Hons) at the University of Otago, Christchurch campus.

Dr Sandy Slow's profile
Dr Aaron Stevens' profile
UOC BBiomedSc(Hons) website
The Infection Group website
Gene Structure and Function Laboratory website
Department of Pathology and Biomedical Science website


Dr Sandy Slow
Tel +64 3 364 0585

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