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Investigating immune cell death processes using live cell microscopy

A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Close date
Sunday, 27 February 2022
Academic background
Sciences, Health Sciences
Host campus
Pathology and Biomedical Science (Christchurch)
Professor Margreet Vissers


This project focuses on the neutrophil, the white blood cells that are our main defence against invading pathogens. Neutrophils make up half of our circulating immune cells and they are the first to gather at a site of infection. Their primary role is the phagocytosis and elimination of invading bacteria. Once this process is complete, it is important that neutrophils are cleared from the site of inflammation before they damage the host and cause tissue damage. The mode of neutrophil death is highly regulated and ranges from the orderly packaging of the cell for uptake by other cells, to the ejection of intracellular contents, which amplifies the inflammatory response. Which process the neutrophils undergo heavily influences the eventual outcome of the inflammation.

The aim of this project is to investigate the effects of biological and physiological stresses that are commonplace during response to infection. Oxygen can be limiting, and we have previously shown that low oxygen tension (hypoxia) impacts on neutrophil cell death by apoptosis. It may also affect the generation of extracellular traps, generated when the cells eject complexes of DNA and microbicidal proteins. These processes can be tracked visually by live cell imaging. In this project, the cell death processes of the neutrophil will be investigated using a range of microscopy techniques, including live cell imaging, immunofluorescence and electron microscopy in order to gain understanding of the neutrophil cell death processes. The project has clinical relevance for numerous conditions involving the inflammatory response, including severe infection, sepsis, and autoimmune conditions.

Preferred student expertise

This project would suit a student with a good background in cell biology and biochemistry. The project will use latest technologies for live cell imaging. Although experience in microscopy is not essential it would be important for the student to have an interest in cell biology and imaging technologies. Good computer skills and an aptitude for laboratory skills are required for this project.

Further information

This is one of a number of projects on offer for the 2022 intake of BBiomedSc(Hons) at the University of Otago, Christchurch campus.

UOC BBiomedSc(Hons) website

Professor Margreet Vissers' profile

Centre for Free Radical Research website

Department of Pathology and Biomedical Science website


Professor Margreet Vissers