Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) Encoded Interleukin-10 (vIL-10): Investigating the Immunomodulatory Effects of vIL-10 and its Suitability as a Novel Marker of Viral Reactivation in Kidney Transplant Patients(PhD Scholarship)


Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) Encoded Interleukin-10 (vIL-10): Investigating the Immunomodulatory Effects of vIL-10 and its Suitability as a Novel Marker of Viral Reactivation in Kidney Transplant Patients

Project Team:                 Dr Rebecca Aicheler, Cardiff Metropolitan University (Academic Lead Supervisor)

Prof Ian Humphreys, Cardiff University (Academic Supervisor)

Nic Clarke, Kidney Wales (Academic/Industrial Supervisor)

Project Outline:

 Kidney disease is an incurable condition that affects three million people in the UK. Severe disease can lead to kidney failure for which the only long term treatment is the transplantation of a donor kidney to the diseased recipient. Selection of suitable donors is primarily based on matching tissue type and success of the transplant requires suppression of the recipient’s immune system such that they do not reject the donor kidney.

Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a clinically important pathogen with high prevalence worldwide. HCMV causes a lifelong persistent infection that in healthy individuals is controlled by the host’s immune system. In kidney transplant patients who receive kidneys from donors who carry HCMV, medical suppression of the immune system means that HCMV is able to reactivate. In these patients, viral reactivation results in HCMV disease with overt morbidity and in some cases mortality, as well as the associated high cost to the NHS that results from longer hospital stays and medical treatment.

The proposed study will provide insight into why certain HCMV strains and/or patient immune responses predispose kidney transplant patients to severe HCMV disease, and will aim to identify means to improve antiviral immunity in these individuals. Further, this work aims to identify and validate a novel biomarker (vIL-10) for HCMV reactivation that will enable clinicians to effectively manage HCMV infection in this patient group, and thus ultimately minimise patient suffering and reduce length of patient stay in hospital.

This is a collaborative project between Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff University, the clinicians within the Wales Kidney Research Unit and Kidney Wales, a leading Welsh kidney charity. The student will have the opportunity to carry out laboratory work with world leading academics in the field of HCMV viral immunology who are based at Cardiff Metropolitan University and Cardiff University as well as to collaborate with the clinicians at Wales Kidney Research Unit.  The project will contribute to a wider programme of HCMV research in a vibrant laboratory environment with a number of PhD students. The student will also be expected to spend a minimum of 30 days a year working with Kidney Wales.

Deadline:   Midnight Friday 30th August 2019

WP1: Establish a vIL-10 ELISA.

WP2: Measure vIL-10 levels in patient blood.

WP3: Sequence HCMV strains isolated from patient samples.

WP4: Correlate vIL-10 levels in the blood and sequence variability of vIL-10 with clinical parameters.

WP5: Clone vIL-10 gene constructs into an adenoviral expression vector, and purify vIL-10 protein variants.

WP6: Determine if sequence variability in vIL-10 impacts on proliferation, cytokine production and cytotoxic activity of antiviral NK and T cells.

The scholarship offers all eligible participants:

  • KESS PhD Scholarship holders do not pay fees;
  • A monthly stipend: 3 years of funding at £14,628 per year for PhD, subject to yearly increments
  • An additional budget to support your research for travel, conference attendance, and consumables.
  • An opportunity to access a suite of higher level skills training & attendance at a residential KESS Grad School
  • A minimum of 30 days a year working with the company partner on their allocated project
  • Students must complete & submit their thesis within 3.5 years for PhD
  • All participants must complete the KESS Postgraduate Skills Development Award

To be eligible for the scholarship, applicants should have UK or EU Citizenship, and be resident in the competitive area of Wales on appointment (or be studying in or working in the competitive area immediately prior to starting the project) and should have the right to work in the region on qualification. Residence confirmed by providing documents such as driver’s licence, tenancy agreement or recent statement from bank or building society.

The map for the eligible East area can be​ found here (​.  NB: The map also illustrates other assisted areas in the UK, however only the East Wales (areas of Wales which are not shaded) is eligible in this project.

To obtain an application form (Participant Application Form) and for further information regarding KESS2 at Cardiff Metropolitan, Please click here (

 To apply, please submit completed application form to Rebecca Aicheler Email:

Interviews for this post will take place Tuesday 17th September 2019, with a proposed commencement date of 30th September 2019.

Funding Notes:

Supported by Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships 2 (KESS2) which is an All Wales higher level skills initiative led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales. It is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) Competitive programme for East Wales.