Study level

Vacation research experience scheme


Topic status

In progress.


Adjunct Associate Professor Antiopi Varelias
Adjunct Associate Professor
Division / Faculty
Faculty of Health

External supervisors

  • Adjunct Associate Professor Antiopi Varelias, QIMR Berghofer


Project code:


Area of Research:


Project aims and objectives:

Chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) occurs in approximately 60-80% of long-term survivors of allogeneic stem cell transplantation (allo-SCT). This immunological complication is a major cause of morbidity and accounts for approximately one-quarter of the deaths in long-term transplant survivors. Clinical manifestations of chronic GVHD such as dry eyes, dry mouth and connective tissue disease closely resemble those of autoimmune disorders such as Sjogren's syndrome. Focal lymphocytic infiltrates of exocrine tissues (eg salivary glands), a characteristic feature of the disease, leads to tissue pathology and gland dysfunction. Cytokines are known mediators in this process and are important in regulating the disease sequela. Given current cytokine-targeted therapeutic approaches are ineffective, a better understanding of the pathophysiology of disease is needed for new therapies to be developed.


Using preclinical models of chronic GVHD, this project aims to define the role of novel cytokine and cellular interactions within salivary gland tissues.


This project will develop staining protocols for the detection of novel molecules in salivary gland tissues during chronic GVHD using confocal microscopy. Additionally, analysis of the expression of these critical molecules using multi-parameter flow cytometry will also be undertaken.

Project methodology and resources:

The student will gain practical laboratory experience and further his/her knowledge in the transplantation field. This project will involve flow cytometry, RT-qPCR and immunoassays. He/she will have the opportunity to observe and learn other techniques/skills, in addition to those required for this project. The student will work in a stimulating and supportive environment. He/she will be expected to display good laboratory practice, maintain a detailed and accurate laboratory notebook and write a brief report upon completion.

Location of research:

QIMR Berghofer

Prior knowledge/skills:

This project is open to applications from students with a background in immunology/microbiology, particularly undergraduate students interested in a Honours/PhD pathway or pre-medical provisional students interested in MD-HDR pathway.


Workspace, training and supervision

Research activities:

Laboratory experiments; Data entry; Data analysis



Contact the supervisor, Adjunct Associate Professor Antiopi Varelias, for more information via email at