PhD Scholarship in Age-related immune dysfunction, inflammation & nutritional status

Identifying epigenetic mechanisms that drive decline in immune function and the ability to respond to vaccines, infections and cancers in the elderly.

This project seeks to pinpoint cellular and molecular epigenetic mechanisms that drive age-related immune-senescence and inflammation, critical to the decline in immune function and ability to respond to vaccines, infections and cancers in the elderly. 

The value of the Scholarship is equivalent to an RMIT full Scholarship.

This Scholarship will be available for 3.5 Years.

Applications are open now.

Position will remain open until filled.

Applicants need to have a background in immunology, genetics or bioinformatics. They must have completed a relevant Bachelor’s Degree and Honour’s or Master’s. 

Desirable criteria:

  • Practical experience and conceptual background in cellular immunology.
  • Interest or experience in genetics and basic bioinformatics.
  • Experience in tissue culture.

To apply, please submit the following documents to Prof. Magdalena Plenbanski via magdalena.plebanski@rmit.edu.au and Dr April Kartikasari via april.kartikasari@rmit.edu.au.

  • A copy of electronic academic transcripts
  • A CV that includes any publications/awards and the contact details of two referees

Previously, we and others have observed reduced vaccine efficacy in the elderly as well as increased susceptibility to infections and cancers [1]. Age-related immune dysfunction, chronic inflammation, and inadequate nutritional status may reduce our capacity to resolve infections and cancers, as well as to promote sufficient vaccine response.

This project has been designed to pinpoint cellular and molecular epigenetic mechanisms that drive age-related immune-senescence and inflammation, critical to the decline in immune function and ability to respond to vaccines, infections and cancers in the elderly. Additionally, nutritional status measured by the dietary inflammation indexes and/or plasma nutritional biomarkers will be measured to understand the influence of nutrition on the immune response. Here, we will use various cohorts from human trials, to unravel the role of immune dysfunction, inflammation, and nutritional status on modulation of infections-, cancers- and vaccine-generated immune responses in older individuals, and the epigenetic mechanisms that underlie such modulation.

Underpinning the molecular epigenetic changes that drive the age-related immune dysfunction and inflammation, or are formed by the inadequate nutritional status will point towards molecular mechanisms that may be involved in suboptimal responses to vaccination in the elderly, as well as provide leads for novel therapeutic strategies.

Co-supervised by Dr April Kartikasari - plus for specific subprojects, additional co-supervision by the Prof. Itsiopoulos (diet) and/or Prof. Flanagan (Launceston General Hospital)

[1] Flanagan KL, Fink AL, Plebanski M, Klein SL. Sex and Gender Differences in the Outcomes of Vaccination over the Life Course.Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2017 Oct 6;33:577-599. doi: 10.1146/annurev-cellbio-100616-060718.

For further inquiries please contact Prof. Magdalena Plenbanski (magdalena.plebanski@rmit.edu.au) and Dr April Kartikasari (april.kartikasari@rmit.edu.au).

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