T cells, viruses and the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis

Project opportunity

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

Joint inflammation, particularly in the synovial tissue, is a classic manifestation of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). T cells accumulate in the synovial tissue where they interact with antigen-presenting cells and provide help to support B cell-driven autoantibody production. But what drives autoimmune inflammation in RA synovial tissue, which T cells contribute and how? New insights are emerging from more detailed analysis of synovial tissues, such as single cell transcriptomics and multi-parameter flow cytometry and tissue imaging. For example, proinflammatory cytotoxic T cells (CTLs) were unexpectedly found to infiltrate RA synovial tissue in large numbers. The main role of CTLs is to kill cells expressing specific antigens, including virally-infected cells. When this occurs, the T cells produce pro-inflammatory cytokines. At the same time, the cellular destruction may liberate new self-antigens.  Much evidence supports associations of EBV and CMV with RA, including the expansion of viral-specific T cells. This project will study the contribution of these viruses and T cells, including CTLs, in the development of RA. It will build on outstanding laboratory resources, collaborations and technologies, including sample biobanks, single cell RNA and T cell receptor sequencing, imaging mass cytometry and spatial transcriptomics in tissues from newly diagnosed RA patients, analysis of antigen-presenting cells and antigen-specific T cells, and innovative animal models. We aim to build novel discovery tools and to design interventions targeting the pathogenetic processes driving RA.

Scholarship value

As a scholarship recipient, you'll receive: 

  • living stipend of $32,192 per annum tax free (2023 rate), indexed annually
  • tuition fees covered
  • single Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)


Professor Ranjeny Thomas

Faculty of Medicine

Email: ranjeny.thomas@uq.edu.au

Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis.

We take into account your

  • previous academic record
  • publication record
  • honours and awards
  • employment history.

A working knowledge of In vivo immunology/autoimmunity and virology would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of immunology or rheumatology basic or clinical research and the potential for scholastic success.

Latest commencement date

If you are the successful candidate, you must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2025. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date.

If you are an international applicant, you may need to apply much earlier for visa requirements.

How to apply

You apply for this project as part of your PhD program application.

View application process