PhD student from NMS wins Travel Grant from the Portuguese Society of Immunology

Daniela Amaral-Silva, PhD student at the Human Immunobiology and Pathogenesis Laboratory led by Helena Soares, wins a Travel Grant from the Portuguese Society of Immunology to participate in the international Immunology Summer School in Italy.

The Travel Grant was attributed to the work entitled "Elucidating the molecular mechanisms by which TLR4+ Tfh cells mediate direct joint damage in rheumatoid arthritis patients", which was also selected for oral presentation.

The researcher explains "by studying a cohort of 184 rheumatoid arthritis patients recruited at Hospital Egas Moniz, we recently identified for the first time a population of follicular helper T (Tfh) cells that atypically express the innate immune receptor TLR4. We could detect these cells in the blood but they were expanded in patient's joints."

Daniela Amaral-Silva and Helena Soares consider that their curious finding was that these TLR4 Tfh cells might play a dual role in disease. Outside the joints, TLR4 Tfh cells secrete cytokines that lead to antibody production. However, and that is the main novelty of our study, TLR4 Tfh cells have the ability to switch to a tissue damage program, once inside the joint. This tissue microenvironment sensing is done by TLR4. 

Right now, the researchers are exploring how these cells can mediate direct joint damage and thus capable of playing a central and direct contribution to bone erosion.

"Potentially, the early detection of these cells in RA patients could be used as a biomarker capable of identifying which patients would be more likely to develop bone erosions and could also be a target for new and more specific therapeutic approaches" highlighted Daniela Amaral-Dias.

For the PhD Student winning the Travel Grant and participating in the 15th ENII EFIS EJI Immunology Summer School (ENII - European Network of Immunology Institutes, EFIS - European Federation of Immunological Societies, EJI - European Journal of Immunology) award is a great opportunity to network with peers and internationally renowned scientists in the field and foster scientific information exchanges that may culminate in potential collaborations or even future postdoc advisors. 


More info about the 15th ENII EFIS EJI Immunology Summer School.

Helena Soares

Human Immunobiology and Pathogenesis Laboratory

Helena Soares