Study Identifies Cells Responsible for Tissue Damage in TB-Infected Lungs

A doctoral study examined the profile of lung cells of individuals who had tuberculosis (TB) at a single cell resolution to determine which cells are involved in lung tissue damage as well as granuloma formation in human lung tissue infected by the disease.

The research work earned Dr Ian Mbano (32) of Zimbabwe a PhD in Medical Sciences.

‘This is a significant achievement for me considering the time it took and the challenges I had to overcome. I want to use science as a tool for positive transformation of African societies and the world at large,’ said Mbano.

The study used single cell data to identify alveolar pneumocytes as the primary target of the SARS-CoV2 virus and uncovered an interferon dependent stimulation of target proteins such as ACE2 and TMPRSS2 receptors.

‘I took this challenge on because TB is poorly understood and affects resource-constrained nations. Thus, my project afforded me the opportunity to study TB disease with cutting-edge technology.’

Mbano, who was supervised by Dr Alisdair Leslie, says at the outset his research was not yielding the required results so he had to continue with the experiments for about 11 months, which required patience and a “never-yield attitude”. As an international student he encountered challenges but managed to form networks within and beyond the University that enabled him to flourish.

Mbano recently began a postdoctoral fellowship with the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) in a collaborative research project with the Ragon Institute in the United States, where his work focuses on how the immune system correlates of bacterial vaginosis and the implications for HIV acquisition.

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal