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Dr Mona Bajaj-Elliott
Appointment
  • Senior Lecturer
  • ICH Infect, Imm, Infla. & Physio Med
  • UCL GOS Institute of Child Health
  • Faculty of Pop Health Sciences
Biography

 

Research Summary

Maintaining homeostasis at mucosal surfaces is a complex affair. These interfaces have to provide protection and tolerance at the same time. With an epithelial lining that is only a single cell thick (unlike the hardy skin) protecting the underlying mucosa, the Gastrointestinal (GI) tract faces unique challenges. It has to co-exist with trillions of bacteria (unlike the sterile lung) called commensals (good bacteria) and yet provide protection against opportunistic enteropathogens (Enteropathogenic E. coli, Clostridium difficile, Salmonella and Campylobacter species). In addition to dealing with the microbial world, the GI mucosal immune system is central to aiding tolerance to food antigens. If not, immune-mediated (e.g. Celiac disease, Food allergy) or non-immune mediated inflammation may ensue.

The central hypothesis of our research is that GI health is maintained via appropriate cross-talk between the GI mucosal immune system (host genetics) and its luminal contents (microbiota/pathogens/food antigens). Our laboratory is focused on identifying both exogenous (microbial/food allergens) and host components that are involved in this interplay.  A better understanding of these multifaceted interactions holds the key for unlocking cellular events responsible for a variety of GI inflammatory conditions. 

Current areas of research include:

(a) Understanding Clostridium difficile-mediated antibiotic associated diarrhoea and related complications, which currently represent a significant health burden in the developed world.

(b) Understanding Campylobacter jejuni (a commensal of chicken gut)-mediated disease pathogenesis. Currently, this bacterium is the major cause of bacterial gastroenteritis worldwide.

(c) How do enteropathogens manipulate major host cellular processes (in particular the inflammasome and the autophagy machinery) leading to successful immune evasion.

(d) Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis) disease pathogenesis

(e) Identify potential biomarkers for gut allergic diseases.

Teaching Summary

Teaching responsibilities include:

MRes in Biomedicine: Director (since 2007). MRes (MSc by Research) in Biomedicine is a 1 year course that has been running successfully since 2001. The course is unique amongst postgraduate courses as it offers students an opportunity to conduct two (instead of one) laboratory-based projects, thus arming them with greater polished skills for entering a higher degree and/or the job market. A great majority of students successfully enter PhD programmes in the UK and in Europe.

MRes in Biomedicine: Module Director (Foundations of Biomedical Sciences)

MSc in Infection and Immunity: Module co-director (Infection and Immunodeficiency in Children)

iBSc Paediatrics and Child Health: Module director (Laboratory methods in Biomedical Sciences)

Academic Background
1984 PhD Doctor of Philosophy – Biochemistry Birkbeck College
1980 BSc Hons Bachelor of Science (Honours) – Biochemistry University of London
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