I have a particular interest in understanding how infectious diseases are established and then progress over time. I have a passion for microbial pathogenicity. The microbial world fascinates me, in particular, the impact of infections on human health is intriguing as constant battles of ‘friend and foe’ relationships between host and microbe are established. Understanding these intricate host-pathogen interactions are crucial for our insight of basic host biology, disease progression and is essential in successful drug development.
2019–present: PhD student, School of Clinical Dentistry, University of Sheffield, UK
2016–2017: MSc Molecular Medicine (Distinction), The Medical School, University of Sheffield, UK
2011–2015: BSc Molecular Biology (Class Two Division One Honours), Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of Sheffield, UK
Project: The influence of bacterial and human extracellular vesicles on inflammation and senescence in periodontitis.
Periodontitis is major health burden that affects around 750 million people globally, with a high prevalence amongst the elderly. Host responses to commensal flora and infections change with aging and result in increased inflammatory load. As we age, a proportion of our cells enter a permanently growth arrested state, senescence. Senescent cells secrete an enhanced repertoire of inflammatory mediators and extracellular vesicles, named the senescence-associated secretory phenotype. Extracellular vesicles are small membranous vesicles that carry nucleic acids, proteins, lipids and metabolites, and are mediators of intercellular communication.
Bacteria also produce extracellular vesicles, which we refer to as bacterial extracellular vesicles. These mediate communication, deliver virulence factors and present antigens to host cells. Therefore they also influence innate and adaptive immunity. Bacterial extracellular vesicles contain peptidoglycan, lipopolysaccharide, DNA, RNA and secreted enzyme factors. These are transported into host cells and could act as drivers of senescence or age-associated inflammation. During periodontal disease, cells of the oral mucosa are constantly exposed to an abundance of virulence factors and antigens, many of which are known to be carried by bacterial extracellular vesicles. There is evidence that bacterial extracellular vesicles provoke innate immune responses, but little is known about the effect of cellular aging on these responses, particularly in periodontal disease.
My project aims to investigate the role of bacterial and host extracellular vesicles in driving inflammation and senescence in the context of periodontal disease. I will be examining interactions between the host extracellular vesicles, bacterial extracellular vesicles and whole bacteria, asking questions relating to aggregation, biofilm formation and cellular invasion that relate to examining the role of vesicles at the host-pathogen interface. I also hope to determine novel targets for therapeutic intervention during initial and chronic phases of periodontitis in older patients.
I am funded by a Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health University Post Graduate Research Committee (UPGRC) and School of Clinical Dentistry Scholarship.
Jenna works with Professor Graham Stafford and Professor Dan Lambert on EVs and senescence at the host-pathogen interface.