Sara Macias awarded Wellcome Trust Senior Fellowship for work on interferon signalling
Sara will receive £1.8M over the next five year to work on the project which seeks to understand the contribution of the miRNA-interferon interaction to human disease.
Sara is a Sir Henry Dale fellow funded by the Wellcome Trust and Royal Society, and a Chancellor's fellow and member of the University of Edinburgh's School of Biological Sciences.
During viral infections, cells release signalling molecules called interferons to warn their neighbour cells and mount a systemic antiviral state.
Despite their essential and beneficial role, uncontrolled production of interferons is implicated in a wide range of autoimmune and autoinflammatory diseases, including lupus, which affects one in a 1000 adults in the UK.
To ensure proper levels of interferons, cells have adopted multiple mechanisms regulating their production.
The Macias lab has recently shown that micro-RNAs (miRNAs), types of small molecules, are crucial for controlling interferon levels. Interestingly, this interaction is reciprocal since interferons also control levels of miRNAs.
Sara now hypothesises that errors in these interferon-miRNA interactions are key in understanding human diseases characterised by dysfunctional miRNA- or interferon production.
By investigating the mechanisms underlying this interaction, we will provide an explanation for some poorly understood symptoms of these diseases and new targets for therapeutic interventions for conditions characterised by uncontrolled interferon responses.