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Julia Salafranca


My research at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology consists of understanding the maturation process of neutrophils. Neutrophils are innate immune cells that are important to defend your body from harmful microbes and are also involved in the process of repair. However, if they are not correctly regulated, they can be damaging and contribute to diseases such as cancer, COVID-19, sepsis or autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. As immature neutrophils have been identified in these diseases, I am trying to understand what genes regulate the process of maturation, and how their maturation stage corresponds with their functions. As neutrophils mature, their nucleus shape changes. So, we have been developing a system to study neutrophil biology using a 4D microscope. If we understand the link between neutrophil maturity and functions, we will be able to develop better disease therapies.

Before starting my PhD in 2021 at Oxford, I completed a Master in Science in Immunology at the University of Glasgow, including a one-year placement at the VIB Institute – University of Ghent. I chose to do my PhD at the Kennedy Institute as it is one of the leading institutes in immunology and rheumatology. This combines my interests and passion for translational research which aims to improve the quality of life of patients with autoimmune conditions.