Dr Purnima Bhat, University of Queensland Diamantina Institute.
Interferon-gamma has many functions in driving inflammation, including recruitment of inflammatory cells, and promoting MHC-I expression in target tissue. In mice, IFNgamma promotes T cell migration into skin, and is essential for CD8 T cell mediated skin death. We developed a robust in vitro assay that we could use to determine qualitatively and quantitative characteristics of cell-to-cell interaction and killing of primary cells. Using this method, we could see (literally!) that IFNgamma ncreased CD8 T cell motility kinetics resulting in greater death rate of primary skin cells. While there are many sources of paracrine IFNgamma in tissue inflammation such as other T cells, NK cells, NKT cells, it was autocrine IFNgamma produced by the CD8 T cells themselves that was crucial to their cytolytic function and motility characteristics. Upregulating the production of IFNgamma by CD8 T cells themselves could be the key to improving outcomes of T cell therapies and therapeutic vaccines.
Purnima Bhat is a physician-scientist working at the Translational Research Centre, at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, where she also is a staff specialist in the gastroenterology department. She achieved her specialization in Melbourne working in the liver transplant unit, sparking an interest in virology and immunology that lead her to a PhD with A. Prof. David Anderson at the Macfarlane Burnet Institute, University of Melbourne. She then pursued postdoctoral studies with A. Prof. Peter Thorn at the University of Queensland developing multi-photon microscopy of intracellular vesicular behavior, before joining Prof. Ian Frazer’s team where she has been pursuing the visualization of effector T cell behavior and function in epithelial tissues in vitro and in vivo.