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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Research project: Molecular mechanisms underlying the communication between the peripheral immune system and the brain

Currently Active: 

We are exploring if and how the brain adapts to chronic, repeated inflammatory challenges and have found that while the peripheral immune system becomes tolerant to repeated immune challenges, the brain continues to respond.

These findings may have implications for chronic (inflammatory) diseases, and may provide an explanation for the onset of behavioural changes, including depression and anxiety, that are often associated with chronic diseases. We are currently using real life micro-organisms to mimic bacterial infections and use various immune stimuli, including stimulating antibodies, to further understand the mechanisms underlying neuro-immune communication. A range of behavioural tasks is employed to assess the effects of immune stimulation on brain activity. These studies are complemented by the use of various interventions, including cytokine inhibitors, COX1 and COX2 inhibitors, and anti-depressants.


We use a range of biochemical and molecular biology techniques to explore changes in protein and gene expression. The core facilities of Biological sciences, including the confocal microscopy suite and the proteomics facility provide the necessary tools and expertise to study expression levels at a cellular level. The observations made at genomic and protein level are translated to whole system biology using appropriate animal models, including those for acute and chronic neurodegeneration (i.e., prion disease) and autoimmune diseases (multiple sclerosis and lupus).


To support our projects, we work in close collaboration with members of the CNS inflammation group, headed by Prof V. Hugh Perry and with collaborators in Medicine (Prof Martin Glennie, Dr Mark Cragg, Dr Sonia Quaratino, Dr Roxana Carare, Prof James Nicoll, Prof. Robert Peveler). In addition we have started collaboration with Dr Tracy Melvin in the Optoelectronic Research Center (ORC), providing opportunities to develop novel technologies that will greatly benefit our understanding of neuro-inflammation. Collaborators outside the University include Prof Paul Crocker (University of Dundee), Prof Herald Neumann (University of Bonn, Germany), Prof Ron Taylor ( Virginia, USA), and Dr Elga de Vries ( Free University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands).

Related research groups

Biomedical Sciences
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