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Dr Rachael Rigby

Senior Lecturer

Rachael Rigby

Lancaster University

Furness Building



United Kingdom

Research overview

My research interests include regenerative medicine for the intestine and how the microbiota influence repair of the intestinal epithelium.  The majority of my research has used the gastro-intestinal tract as an organ-system to research immunology, microbiology and cancer biology pathways.  Our research focuses on intestinal epithelial cells and their interactions with immune cells, cytokines and bacteria.  Specifically, I am interested in a group of proteins named Suppressors of Cytokine Signaling (SOCS) which are natural, endogenous inhibitors of inflammation and cancer. 

PhD supervision

Projects available in my lab include investigating the role of intestinal microbiota, and associated signaling pathways, in diseases such as cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and neurological conditions. I'm also interested in how microbes train the immune response to protect or predispose individuals to disease and influence treatments or therapies, including recovery from surgery and immunotherapy. Please contact me on rachael.rigby@lancaster.ac.uk to discuss a specific area of study for PhD or Master by Research projects.

Research Interests

My research interests lie in mechanisms of repair and renewal of the intestinal epithelium. During diseases such as colon cancer and IBD, epithelial repair homeostasis is disrupted. My research focuses on the interplay between luminal bacteria and the epithelium through a family of proteins termed suppressors of cytokine signalling (SOCS) which are important mediators of cancer and inflammation.

The translational nature of my research utilises several models including human tissue, human and mouse ex-vivo cell cultures, cancer cell lines and Drosophila. 

Current research projects include:

How microflora sustain a healthy intestine through analysis of signaling pathways and immune cells -  project funded by Bowel Cancer Research and is aimed at improving the outcome of stoma reversal surgery,

How epithelial cells generate tolerance and resistance to intestinal microflora and pathogens - project funded by the MRC

What microbial-related signaling events lead to the development of colon cancer

Investigating the impact of intestinal health on life span and behaviour

Whether infection-induced dysbiosis is linked to IBD or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) - funded by UHMBT

My work led to the discovery that a cell protein, SOCS3, is an inhibitor of tumorigenesis in the colon.  I was lead author on both the original paper, published in Oncogene, and a review published in Gastroenterology. I also published that commensal flora impact on intestinal inflammation and fibrosis following surgical resection and I was also first author on one of the original reports that Dendritic Cell cytokine production is influenced by microbial products. 

It is extremely important to me that my research has direct relevance to human health and disease.


Current Teaching

BIOL131 Biomedical Science in Practice: lecturer
BIOL243 Medical Microbiology: module convenor  
BIOL353 Cancer: lecturer  
BIOL303 Cell Cycle and Stem cells: lecturer                                                             
Director of Part I for Biomedical and Life Sciences
Special Study Module convenor on the Medicine MBChB degree

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