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The Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences (NDS) has awarded its first annual grant to an early career researcher from the Philip Allison Foundation. The award went to Dr Hisashi Hashimoto, a postdoctoral researcher at NDS with a research focus on regulatory T cells (Tregs).

Hisashi Hashimoto

Tregs are key to maintaining immune homeostatic balance and either loss or gain of Treg function might be involved in immune dysregulation. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms by which Tregs regulate the immune system will unveil the pathophysiology of human diseases caused by immune dysregulation and open the door to new therapeutic strategies. 

Most studies exploring the mechanisms of this dysregulation have been focused on Tregs, however, these studies overlook a possibility of pathological changes in Treg sensitivity in effector immune cells.

‘Mal or over-functionalities of Tregs are thought of as a main pathophysiological process of several diseases, such as autoimmune diseases and cancers,’ explained Dr Hashimoto. ‘However, I hypothesised that the sensitivity of Treg immune suppression in effector immune cells may also largely contribute to the pathophysiology.

‘During my DPhil project, I found two different subpopulation of T cells showing different Treg sensitivities. Interestingly, those subpopulations are characterised by different mitochondrial mass. However, why these cells showed different Treg sensitivities and the mechanisms how mitochondria contribute to the Treg sensitivity has not been elucidated.’

Based within the Translational Research Immunology Group at NDS, Dr Hashimoto will use the £3,000 grant to reveal the epigenetic differences between the two populations possessing different Treg sensitivity. In addition, the funding will help to generate preliminary data for a fellowship application. 

The Philip Allison Foundation is a registered charity set up by Professor Philip Allison, Nuffield Professor of Surgery in NDS from 1954 to 1974. The Foundation was set up in support of research in an area of Surgical Sciences, supporting researchers in the department. Any DPhil student or researcher within five years of their DPhil is eligible to apply for this grant. The next call will be in March 2024.