Dr Vacca received his PhD from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, working under the supervision of Dr. Henry McSorley. The main aim of his PhD was investigating the immunomodulatory effects of the secretory products released by the parasitic worm Heligmosomoides polygyrus. His team identified 2 proteins that interfere with the initiation of type 2 immune responses and used them to modulate asthmatic immune response in vivo.
Prof Franca Ronchese’s Immune Cell Biology Group has shown that dendritic cells can form the basis of effective tumourvaccines. A major focus of their current research is finding ways to improve their efficacy. Dendritic cells can be generated inculture using different growth factors. These in vitro generated cells resemble dendritic cells that are found in the body undernormal conditions or during inflammation. These two types of in vitro generated dendritic cells differ in their ability to respondto different stimuli and to activate immune responses in vitro. They are now being used as vaccines to compare their ability toinitiate antitumour immune responses.Prof Ronchese’s group also found that once injected, the dendritic cells in a vaccine can be attacked and killed, as if theimmune system were mistaking them for tumour cells. Surprisingly, they also showed that the consequences of dendritic cellkilling are dependent on how the cells have been loaded with tumour antigen, and that the cell’s ability to activate immuneresponses may not be affected.This information will guide the development of dendritic cell vaccines that better stimulate immune responses and minimise theeffects of dendritic cell killing
My project focuses on investigating the possible immunomodulatory effect of the human hookworm Necator americanus and the murine nematode Heligmosomoides polygyrus.