MUII FELLOW

Annette Nakimuli
Project title: The role of immune systems genes, Killer Immunoglobulin-like Receptor (KIR) and HLA-C, in pre-eclampsia.

Project summary
During my doctoral training I have looked at the role of immune systems genes, Killer Immunoglobulin-like Receptor (KIR) and HLA-C, in pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is a common pregnancy that is characterised by hypertension and urinary protein, and primarily results from inadequate placentation. My PhD mentors are Prof Ashley Moffett (University of Cambridge), Prof Florence Mirembe (Makerere University) and Prof Pontiano Kaleebu (UVRI).

I conducted a case-control study of pregnancies in Mulago Hospital and analysed whether particular maternal KIR/fetal HLA-C combinations confer risk of pre-eclampsia. I collected blood and cord samples from the study participants, extracted DNA and then genotyped the samples in Cambridge.

The PhD project has made several interesting findings one of which is that as in UK cohorts, a maternal KIR AA genotype when combined with a fetal HLA-C2 gene derived from the father is associated with pre-eclampsia. The PhD findings have raised a lot of fascinating scientific questions for further research. I am now looking at the role of KIR genes in placental malaria among women at Mulago Hospital.

I was also recently awarded a MUII Junior post doctoral fellowship to study further the role of the KIR and HLA-C genes in pre-eclampsia by pinpointing exactly which genes confer risk or susceptibility to pre-eclampsia and other pregnancy disorders that occur due to defective placentation (fetal growth restriction, unexplained stillbirth, etc).