Severe asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) are characterised by neutrophil-dominated lung inflammation. Neutrophils, the most abundant circulating white blood cells, are equipped with a plethora of antimicrobial weapons such as phagocytosis, degranulation of antimicrobial compounds, production of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and Neutrophil Extracellular Traps (NETs). Particulate matter air pollution (PM) poses a huge burden on health. Patients with chronic airway conditions are particularly vulnerable. PM induces excessive neutrophilic inflammation and consequently tissue damage and pathology. The goal of this project is to develop strategies that can mitigate the detrimental effects of air pollution and improve lung health by limiting neutrophilic inflammation while preserving immune defense mechanisms.
1) Investigate how real-world PM from different sources globally (e.g. urban or forest burning locations) impact the functions of neutrophils.
2) Identify molecular signalling pathways that directly or indirectly influence neutrophil function.
3) Compare PM-induced activation of neutrophils from healthy donors and patients with chronic airway disease and identify strategies to ameliorate excess inflammatory responses.
Techniques will include cell isolation and culture, flow cytometry, protein and gene expression analyses and advanced microscopy. Neutrophils will be isolated from blood samples, airway epithelial cultures will be grown at air-liquid interface (ALI), and co-culture systems involving different immune cells will be utilized.
Year 1: Establish essential methodologies including the isolation of donor neutrophils, inducing ALI cultures, and characterizing the heterogeneity of real-world PM samples.
Year 2: Understand the impact of PM on neutrophil functions directly and in co-culture systems with relevant airway cells.
Year 3: Determine the molecular pathways through which PM affects neutrophil function.
Year 4: Comparing responses to PM between neutrophils from healthy individuals versus asthma and COPD patients we aim to identify public health interventions that can mitigate against detrimental effects.