The Maizels Group

Current Research

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.

https://maizelslab.org/ 

Research Group Members

Collaborations

A World Without Asthma : an Accelerate Consortium funded by the Lung Foundation Netherlands (LongFonds), which brings together a spectrum of investigators studying how environmental and infectious agents can condition and protect the airways against asthma and inflammation. The consortium includes scientists and clinicians from Leiden University Medical Center (NL), the VIB Ghent (BE), the Universities of Dundee and Glasgow (UK), the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich (DE) and Monash University (Australia), to test constitutents known to alleviate asthma, including farm dust, raw milk, environmental microbes, and helminth parasite products.

Recent Publications :

Maizels et al (2018) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.immuni.2018.10.016

Smits et al (2016) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2016.01.004

 

 

Tuft Cells in Intestinal Immunity : a Wellcome Trust funded Collaborative Grant, combining the University of Glasgow (laboratories of Collette Britton, Eileen Devaney and Rick Maizels), the Moredun Research Institute, Edinburgh (Tom O’Neilly) and the University of Montpellier (Philippe Jay) to study the factors activating intestinal tug cells during helminth infection, and the functional role of tuft cell products in the protective response that expels parasites, in both laboratory models and livestock.

Recent Publications :

Hildersley et al (2021) https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2021.781108

Drurey et al (2022)  https://doi.org/10.1084/jem.20211140

 

Structural Biology of a Parasite TGF-beta Mimic (TGM) : an ongoing collaboration with the laboratory of Andy Hinck, University of Pittsburgh, to determine the 3-dimensional structure of helminth TGFbeta mimics, and their mode of binding to mammalian TGFbeta receptors.

Recent Publication:

Mukundan et al (2019) https://biorxiv.org/cgi/content/short/2020.12.08.416701v1

 

Extracellular Vesicles from Helminths : a long-standing collaboration with the laboratory of Amy Buck, University of Edinburgh, to analyse the function of parasite secreted vesicles and their potential for novel vaccine strategies.

Recent Publication:

Coakley et al (2017) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2017.05.001