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Prof Iain Chapple

Characterisation of the skin microbiome and investigation of neutrophil function in Epidermolysis Bullosa patients.

The human body has specialized immune cells to protect it against infections. Their job is to locate and destroy any foreign cells or bacteria that can make us unwell. In health, we have healthy bacteria, that live quite happily with our immune system, however, if the environment where the bacteria live is changes (by for example trauma that causes a blister), different bacteria can start to grow and this can upset our immune system. In some diseases, when our immune system is upset, the immune cells do not function as they should do and they can over-react (inappropriately) to certain bacteria, in a way that damages our tissues and can delay wound healing. This work is key to understanding whether particular immune cells, called neutrophils, work properly in epidermolysis bullosa (EB). Many people affected by EB often suffer from other infections such as cold and flu. This is a hint that their immune system may not work as it should do, and investigating neutrophils can help us to understand why.

The proposed work will also investigate the different bacteria that are present on the skin of EB patients. The human body has twice the number of bacterial cells than human cells, and so humans are actually a complex mix of human elements and of the bacteria we live with naturally, and indeed need in order to sustain our health. The skin contains lots of bacteria and most are friendly. However, in EB wounds bacteria may change and cause infections, delay wound healing and cause scarring. Currently, the skin bacteria of EB patients are unknown. Here, we want to understand which bacteria are present on the skin of EB patients and what they do to maintain a healthy skin.