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March 23, 2012

Fiona Powrie was the first scientist I interviewed in my new role as a science writer at the Wellcome Trust. It took me six months to get round to writing a feature about her but it turned out the timing was fortunate as she had just won a major scientific prize…

Wellcome Trust Blog

Professor Fiona Powrie, who will be awarded the 2012 Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine later this year, has made significant contributions to our understanding of the immune system in the gut and what happens when it goes wrong in inflammatory bowel disease. Michael Regnier spoke to Fiona, a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator, about her research and career to date.

There are more immune cells in the intestine than anywhere else in the human body. Their job is to identify and destroy invaders such as viruses, bacteria or parasites that could make us ill; however, unlike in other parts of the body, where any unfamiliar cell is likely to be potentially harmful, our guts play host to hundreds of species of bacteria.

Most of these bacteria are harmless or even help us – by aiding digestion, for example. The intestinal immune system, therefore, has to be more discriminating in its response to…

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