Conservation of macrophage polarization in fish
In my project I focus on answering fundamental questions regarding one of the most important cell types of the innate immune system: macrophages. Macrophages are very plastic cells with the capacity to perform many important functions that can be completely opposite. For example, they can be activated to fight pathogens on the one side, and help to achieve tissue regeneration and wound healing on the other. We aim to find out if macrophages of fish have similar characteristics and polarizing capacities to those of mammals and if they can be triggered without the help of the adaptive immune system. This will allow us to study innate immune polarization by studying macrophages. This in turn is needed to develop more targeted approaches to modulate innate immunity to improve fish heath in aquaculture conditions. To study this, I combine cell-based functional assays with a genomic/transcriptomic approach to study polarization and activation induced by for instance cytokines and growth factors.
The image shows one of the techniques we use to visualise phagocytosis. We leave macrophages to internalize polystyrene beads (orange), then we stain the cell membrane (green) and the nucleus (blue).