The primary goals of the immune system are to protect the body against invading pathogens and prevent subsequent infection. This powerful system must be carefully balanced to ensure that it does not destroy the body it has evolved to protect. We use a multidisciplinary approach to investigate the receptors and pathways that regulate lymphocyte development and activation.
Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell of which we study two main types:
T cells, which develop in the thymus, form different lineages with specialised functions. These include cell-mediated immunity, recognising and killing other cells infected by microorganisms or transformed to malignancy; other T cells provide help to B cells to generate antibodies with improved recognition of antigens; T cells also provide essential restraint on immune responses to avoid tissue damage and aid in the repair of damaged tissues.
B cells, which develop in the bone marrow, mediate humoral immunity by secreting antibodies, and form memory B cells which can rapidly respond to new infections. Like T cells there are many subsets of B cells with specialised functions including regulatory functions that control the immune response.
Each type of lymphocyte interacts with other white blood cells to mount an immune response.
The primary goals of the immune system are to protect the body against invading pathogens and prevent subsequent infection. This powerful system of immunity must be carefully balanced to ensure that it does not react against the body it has evolved to protect.
The property of immunological memory of past infection is fundamental to the concept of immunity. In practice this underpins why vaccination works as a safe alternative to infection with potentially lethal diseases, seen globally with the lives saved due to COVID-19 vaccination. Vaccination is why smallpox has been eradicated and some other deadly diseases are now rare.
A greater understanding of immunity is central to the goal of promoting a healthier lifespan. We aim to understand the processes that regulate the development, survival and function of lymphocytes and also work to identify how to mitigate the effects of age on the immune system. This is essential to improve vaccines, combat autoimmune diseases, limit inflammation, develop new immunotherapies and to secure lifelong health.
We are investigating the basic biology of how lymphocytes develop into fully-fledged immune cells and signal to each other and to other cell types in the body. How do these signals bring about changes in gene expression to regulate cell identity and function and thus promote immunity? We also study the effect of oxygen levels on T cell function, which is important to understand how to support effective T cell function in physiological contexts.
Our studies are defining how epigenetic, transcriptional and post-transcriptional mechanisms co-operate to control lymphocyte development and immunological memory. We use our knowledge to develop new therapies and approaches to improve immunity as we age.