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Full NameProfessor Ulla Knaus

Department:Medicine

Organisation:University College Dublin

Webpage:www.ucd.ie

Email Address:Email hidden; Javascript is required.

Research Fields

  • genetics, genomics and molecular biology
  • infectious disease and the immune system
  • cell and developmental biology/regenerative medicine
  • physiology and non-communicable disease

Postgrad Medical Specialties

  • Medicine
  • Paediatrics
  • Pathology

Medical Subspecialties

  • Gastroenterology
  • Infectious diseases
  • Immunology
  • Physiology
  • Respiratory Medicine

My Work

Innate immune cells and mucosal barrier tissues are the first line of defense in the fight against invading pathogens. Our group focuses on understanding molecular mechanisms that innate and mucosal host defense use to protect the host from microbial insult, and how some responses wind up damaging the host by perpetuating inflammation, altering tissue regeneration and/or leading to fibrotic complications.

We are interested in the dynamics of pathogen control by innate defense systems such as neutrophils or by epithelial cells in the mucosa, and in how communication via interkingdom signaling shapes interactions between the host and microbiota, thereby determining disease outcome in an otherwise healthy or in an immunocompromised host (Cell Host Microbe 2012, Blood 2014, Cell Mol Gastroenterol Hepatol 2015, Cell Host Microbe 2016, PNAS 2016, Gut Microbes 2017, Gastroenterology 2017).

We are using state-of-the-art techniques in neutrophil/macrophage biology, mucosal barrier analysis, microbiology and genetically modified animal models, and collaborate closely with clinical colleagues for functional evaluation of genetic variants and ex vivo tissue models.

Potential Projects

Superoxide and H2O2-producing NADPH oxidases are an integral and crucial component of the protective host response in bacterial, fungal and viral infections. We are interested in the role of theses reactive oxygen species in the mutualistic interactions between mucosal epithelia, immune cells, commensal bacteria and pathogens at intestinal, lung or skin barriers. Elucidating physiological stimuli and control mechanisms for these enzymes will help define the biological functions of oxidases, and constitutes a prerequisite for therapeutic intervention in infection, inflammation, fibrosis and tissue injury.

Instead of evaluating outcomes retrospectively we will use animal models to simulate disturbances to the redox equilibrium. This approach will permit us to determine in a controlled setting the effects of oxidants on gastrointestinal or pulmonary homeostasis, infectious disease progression or chronic inflammatory disease. These projects are focussed on gaining mechanistic insights into the development and progression of disease. Other projects in the laboratory are focused on prevention of disease by altering the redox state of the host via therapeutic interventions.

Projects in the laboratory are challenging due to the multifaceted nature of the questions and approaches, but we will provide excellent training in project and experimental design, literature search, scientific writing, and in developing presentation skills, and technically in murine disease models, microbiology, enzyme biology, biochemistry, cell biology, and microscopy, all with the goal to foster independence and to achieve high impact publications.