The University of Salzburg has announced an open PhD position, integrated in the international PhD program “Immunity in Cancer and Allergy” at PLUS. The project will be dealing with the effects of allergens and nanoparticles in terms of nanosafety assessment and has potential for nanomedical applications.
Project Outline (workgroup Albert Duschl)
Topic: Proteins readily bind to nanoparticles, due to the latter’s small size, high surface area and depending on the particle properties, also due to steric, ionic or hydrophobic interactions. Allergens bind to nanoparticles and it has been shown by the group that this attachment can make allergens both more and less able to induce allergic reactions. The response depends on the specific allergen, on the patient, and probably also on the nature of the nanoparticle. Allergens attached to nanoparticles may thus be a risk factor for people exposed to them. On the other hand, the possibility to load nanoparticles with allergen is an interesting option to improve immunotherapy of allergic diseases. Both aspects shall be explored.
Thesis project: “Translational immunology of allergen-nanoparticle mixtures”
The project will investigate various recombinant major allergens both in free form and bound to nanoparticles. It will thus determine how common the property of enhanced allergic responses due to nanoparticle binding is and will via titration of allergen content allow to estimate whether co-exposure under realistic conditions can lead to increased disease states. It will also compare purified natural and recombinant allergens with allergen extracts that are used in therapy. Preferential binding of the relevant allergens may be achieved via a suitable choice of nanoparticles. In immunotherapy, a strong (but anti-allergic) response of the immune system is desired, which may be enhanced by high allergen density on the nanoparticle surface and by sustained release from the inside of hollow particles, which can act as a depot. Effects of free vs. NP-coupled allergens on human immune cells (dendritic cells, monocytes, basophils) will be studied as biological readouts. The nanoparticles used will be primarily composed of silica, which are available in house in many different forms, including variants already tuned to therapeutic needs. Silica nanoparticles are also the most produced nanoparticle type by weight, which implies that unintentional exposure by workers and consumers is frequent, so additional information on their safety is welcome.
Deadline for the complete application is 18th of April 2016.
Send the application to: Elisabeth.Eppacher(at)sbg.ac.at