‘Big data’ training network for T-cell researchers at the HZI

HZI immunologist Jochen Hühn coordinates EU-funded doctoral programme

As part of the adaptive immune system, T cells are involved in the defence against pathogens. However, if they recognise healthy, self-structures instead of invading pathogens, autoimmune diseases can result. It is still insufficiently understood which factors are responsible for the dysregulation of the T cells. A new EU-funded programme for young researchers, coordinated by Prof. Jochen Hühn at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig, aims to study tissue-resident T cells in more detail. Within the framework of the training network, 15 doctoral students will be trained at academic and non-academic institutions in ten European countries.

Electron micrograph of a T cell in blueElectron micrograph of a T cell ©Manfred Rohde/HZI T cell precursors originate in the bone marrow and mature in the thymus. They then circulate through the bloodstream and secondary lymphoid tissues in search of foreign or altered proteins. Tissue-resident T cells are a subset of T lymphocytes that have left the bloodstream and settled in tissues. These immune cells can remain there for a long time. A new training network called the “European Network Linking Informatics and Genomics of Helper T cells in Tissues” (ENLIGHT-TEN+) is investigating factors that influence the properties of tissue-resident T cells.
"A variety of omics technologies are currently used in immunology, generating large amounts of data. Therefore, we have set ourselves the goal of training a new generation of PhD students who are proficient in both cellular immunology and bioinformatic data analysis," says Prof. Jochen Hühn, head of the department “Experimental Immunology” at HZI and ENLIGHT-TEN+ coordinator. The training network is funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 programme with 4 million euros over a period of four years.

ENLIGHT-TEN+ pursues an interdisciplinary approach to molecularly characterise tissue-resident T cells. In addition to preclinical models, the scientists are also using samples from patient cohorts and computational approaches. “For example, we want to identify biomarkers for autoimmune diseases and develop new therapeutic approaches for immune-mediated conditions,” says Hühn, adding, “The interdisciplinary trained young scientists from ENLIGHT-TEN+ will have excellent career opportunities afterwards - both in academic and industrial research.”

Interested graduates can apply for ENLIGHT-TEN+ until 15 March 2021. Further information on partners in the network and individual projects as well as the recruitment procedure can be found on the ENLIGHT-TEN+ website.

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