PhD student in UKZN’s KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV, Ms Amanda Wellmann, won third prize for her presentation at the College of Health Sciences Research Symposium.
Wellmann received R15 000 to cover the costs of attending a national academic conference of her choice.
Her research presentation was titled: “The Modulation of Innate Lymphoid Cells in TB”.
‘Directly seeing the impact that TB and HIV have on people really motivated me to get involved,’ said Wellmann. ‘I have always wanted to do medical research but wanted to spend time studying something that hit close to home. Besides this, HIV and TB are both interesting and complex pathogens.’
Wellman’s oral presentation discussed Innate Lymphoid Cells (ILCs) and their involvement in TB. ILCs are a novel subset of immune cells found in many different organisms, including humans and mice. They have links to tissue repair and remodelling in the lung. They are also central to granuloma formation which together with tissue remodelling are key aspects of TB pathology thought to have a role in the disease.
According to Wellmann they discovered that these cells were found in much lower frequencies in the blood samples of TB patients (with and without HIV) in comparison to the levels seen in healthy patients. When they examined several patients that had been treated for TB (these patients were deemed cured by the clinic) they saw that two subsets of ILCs (ILC1 and ILC3) numbers came back to almost normal. One subset (ILC2s) was not affected by treatment.
According to Wellmann, they are also looking at respected human lung samples from TB patients and TB-negative controls to see if they can detect these cells and whether they are functional.
‘Just to emphasise how lucky we are to have access to the samples that we do, these samples are not available to many other TB researchers globally, which gives us an immense opportunity to do something unique here.’