Who we are

We are a multidisciplinary group of immunologists, parasitologists and molecular biologists who aim to understand the molecular basis for parasites evading the sophisticated mammalian immune system. We study the most complex organisms to invade the human body - multicellular helminths - including some which cause widespread tropical diseases and which display fascinating biological properties.

We aim to integrate detailed studies at the level of individual parasite molecules, with system immunology which measures responses against not only parasites but bystander antigens such as allergens. Parasite molecules may actively counter host immunity, or act as targets for the immune response, and in either case be potential antigens for new vaccines. Our techniques combine DNA analysis and gene isolation, expression and function of proteins, and immune system biology and lymphocyte culture.

We study nematode parasites because they display remarkable biological properties and are tractable at a molecular and cellular level. For example, the filarial nematode is transmitted by mosquito and infects 120 million people in developing countries. Parasites can live for 5 years or more, acting as successful tissue transplants. If we can analyse how they achieve this feat, we may discover important new pathways to control both parasites and the immune system.

In particular, we are now testing the hypothesis that helminth parasites exploit the body's own safety mechanisms which have evolved to minimise the risk of autoimmunity. For example, regulatory T cells naturally arise to limit autoreactivity, but are also associated with chronic helminth infection. The expansion of regulatory T cell populations may underlie the epidemiological association between infection and reduced levels of allergy.

Our Environment

We are in bright, spacious and well-equipped labs in the Institute of Immunology and Infection Research (3IR), on the Kings Buildings campus of Edinburgh University. The group occupies a suite of labs with tissue culture facilities and equipment areas containing freezers, incubators etc, supplemented with gel electrophoresis and PCR instruments. On nearby floors are automated sequencing, flow cytometry and microscopy facilities. There is (some) office space included in the research area, together with a library/breakout space. The lab is fairly heavily computerised and every member of the group has dedicated access to their own computer.

As might be expected for a parasite immunology group, we also have facilities to maintain life cycles of the organisms which we study. There is a mosquito colony which harbours Brugia malayi, while other nematodes (Heligmosomoides polygyrus, Nippostrongylus brasiliensis, Toxocara canis) are contained within the laboratory.

We work closely with many other researchers at 3IR and in Edinburgh. The groups of Judith Allen, Francisca Mutapi and Matt Taylor (immunology of parasites) and Mark Blaxter (parasite genomics) are in adjacent labs, and we share many ideas, reagents, equipment and even students. Labs in protozoal molecular biology (Keith Matthews, Alex Rowe, Joanne Thompson) and in basic immunology (David Gray, Andrew MacDonald, Rose Zamoyska) are just one floor away.

Rick Maizels among worldwide recipients of new Rainin Foundation Awards

The Kenneth Rainin Foundation announced recently that they have awarded $2.9 million for research into Inflammatory Bowel Disease.  This includes, for the first time, grants for diet and nutrition related projects.

Please click here for a pdf of their press release for more information.

Kenneth Rainin Foundation Annual Innovations Symposium

Rick Maizels spoke at the Kenneth Rainin Foundation's Annual Innovations Symposium in San Francisco in July 2015.  The foundation supports cutting edge research projects that work on diagnosing, treating and curing Inflammatory Bowl Disease.  Rick is a foundation grantee.  He was interviewed along with other scientists and researchers on why they attend the event.

To view the video please take a look at our outreach page.

Janice Murray's work shortlisted in Spot On Micro Image Contest & Exhibition

Janice Murray has had two images shortlisted in the Spot On Micro Image Contest and Exhibition.

To see Janice's entries and all others please go to: www.spot-on-micro.eps.hw.ac.uk/gallery

The exhibition is now on at The Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh and closes on Sunday 18 October.

All images in the competition are on display and visitors will have the opportunity to vote for the 'People's Prize' catergory.

David Dresser's recent publications available

To access a pdf copy of the paper please click on the paper title.

Dresser, D.W. (2014). The Transcription Factors GATA-1 and GATA-4 have opposite effects on DNA expression drivers by an Amh promoter.  American Journal of Molecular Biology 4, (150-158).

Chris Johnston chatted to The Academy of Medical Sciences

Chris Johnston talked to Quentin about his Helminth research within the Maizels group. Click here to listen.

Rick Maizels and Henry McSorley take part in BBC Radio Cambridgeshire's 'Naked Scientists' Radio Programme

On March 8 both Rick Maizels and Henry McSorley took part in the BBC Radio Cambridgshire 'Naked Scientists' radio programme which was focusing on the topic of the world of parasites that week.

Henry McSorley takes up post at Centre for Inflammation Research

Henry McSorley has been awarded a Chancellor's Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh and is setting up his own laboratory, at the Centre of Inflammation Research, Queens Medical Research Institute at Little France.

Hydra 2014

Gillian Coakley, studying for her PhD jointly between Amy Buck's lab and Rick Maizels' lab, won her second poster prize of 2014 in the poster session at this year's Hydra conference on Molecular and Cellular Biology of Helminths !

ASiT Medal for Transplantation Research

The 2014 Association of Surgeons in Training Medal was awarded to Chris Johnston in Belfast for the presentation: "A Role for Helminths in Achieving Immunological Tolerance".


Subscribe to Rick Maizels' Group RSS