Immunology is the study of the immune system, which has evolved to protect the body against pathogenic viruses, bacteria and parasites and also functions in protection against cancer. The immune system uses innate and adaptive defence mechanisms to recognize and respond to foreign antigens on pathogens. The innate immune response employs pathogen recognition receptors, including Toll-like receptors (TLRs), to sense and respond rapidly to invading pathogens and also helps to direct the adaptive immune response. The adaptive or acquired immune responses uses B and T cells which express highly specific receptors that recognise epitopes on antigens. T and B cells can recall a previous encounter with the antigen, termed immunological memory and this is the basis of successful vaccination. B cell make antibodies, which neutralize viruses and extracellular bacteria, whereas T cells kill cells infected with viruses and intracellular bacteria and secrete cytokines, which help in antibody production. Innate and adaptive responses are tightly controlled by anti-inflammatory cytokines and regulatory T cells and a failure in immune regulation can result in the immune responses to self-antigens and the development of autoimmune diseases.
The study of immunology has had major impact on human health. An understanding of the mechanisms of protective immunity to pathogens has assisted in the development of new and improved vaccines against a range of potentially lethal infectious diseases. Furthermore, increased understanding of the immunological basis of inflammatory processes has resulted in the development of tumor necrosis factor blocking drugs, which have had a significant impact on morbidity in a number of autoimmune and chronic inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease.
The current strengths of The School of Biochemistry and Immunology are in the areas of innate immunity, including TLR signalling, viral evasion of immune responses, dendritic cell and NK cell function and T cells, especially regulatory T cells and their role in infection, autoimmunity and cancer. The School has a range of equipment including a MoFlo sorter, 3 FACS analysers, Mass Spec, crystallography equipment, confocal microscope, real time PCR, gamma irradiator and extensive tissue culture facilities.
Academic Staff of the School in the Discipline of Immunology and their Research Interests
Prof Andrew Bowie (Head of Discipline), Viral Immune Evasion
Dr Aisling Dunne, Molecular Immunology
Dr Jean Fletcher, Translational Immunology
Dr Clair Gardiner, Natural Killer Cells
Dr Ed Lavelle, Adjuvant Research
Prof Kingston Mills, Immune Regulation
Dr Rachel McLoughlin, Host Pathogen Interactions
Prof Cliona O'Farrelly, Comparative Immunology
Prof Luke O’Neill, Inflammation Research
Dr Nigel Stevenson, Intracellular Immunology
Last updated: Sep 28 2012.