Investigating the effects of microgravity on phagocytosis and macropinocytosis

FUNDING: 9 weeks (full time, 37 hrs per week, £11.03 per hour, £525 consumables)
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LOCATION: Sheffield, UK

Prof. Jason King, Biosciences, Sheffield

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The current advancements in human spaceflight are leading to increased interest in space medicine research. One of the major challenges to astronaut health is the dysregulation of the immune system. The reason for this phenomenon remains unknown but it presents obvious challenges to astronaut welfare. It has recently become evident that microgravity itself can have an impact on protein expression and cell behaviour. We propose to investigate how phagocytosis and macropinocytosis, two cellular mechanisms that are central to the functioning of the immune system, are affected in microgravity. The summer student will build a low-budget clinostat as per Herrera-Jordan et al., 2021 to carry out phagocytosis and macropinocytosis assays under simulated microgravity conditions. Dictyostelium, a convenient and effective model organism used to study phagocytosis and macropinocytosis with the potential to also use a macrophage cell line. After spinning in the clinostat, samples will be fixed and rates of phagocytosis and macropinocytosis observed using flow cytometry and confocal microscopy. Western blot samples will also be taken to measure the effects of microgravity on protein expression. Students will be expected to present their findings orally at a research day in York in September 2023.