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Dr James Phelan recipient of Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellowship by the Irish Research Council

Dr James Phelan, Research Fellow in the Department of Clinical Medicine, has been awarded the prestigious Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellowship by the Irish Research Council. The research proposal, titled 'Defining the role of macrophage-mediated recruitment of neutrophils in the fight against Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection', will take place within the Trinity Translational Medicine Institute (TTMI) under the mentorship of Professor Joseph Keane, and in collaboration with Professor Mark Little (Trinity College Dublin) and Professor Ulrich Schaible (University of Borstel, Germany).

Tuberculosis (TB) remains a global scourge causing approximately 1.8 million deaths annually. The increasing prevalence of drug-resistant TB demonstrates that current treatments are inadequate and there is an urgent need for better therapies. One research strategy in TB is focused on finding new treatments which can be used alongside existing TB drugs to help a patient's own immune cells fight TB. The chief immune cells of the lung, alveolar macrophages, are the first line of defence against TB infection. Other immune cells, including neutrophils, can respond early and can kill TB. However, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the bacteria that causes TB, can manipulate immune responses to allow it to live and replicate inside macrophages and neutrophils. Therefore, a better understanding of the macrophage-neutrophil axis during Mtb infection could have great clinical benefit.

Dr Phelan's proposal will model how macrophages recruit neutrophils in the human lung and will study the immunological features characterising these recruited neutrophils. This could help to improve the immune response by pharmacologically enhancing the ability of neutrophils and macrophages to kill Mtb, while learning how to reduce the inflammatory burden associated with these immune cells. The goal of this research will be to acquire valuable insight into how macrophages and neutrophils co-operate to mediate immunity against Mtb.