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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Research project: The impact of systemic bacterial and viral infections on innate immune responses in the brain

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This project investigates how peripheral infections affect the immune cells in the brain, for how long an infection affects the brain immune cells, and whether different infections have different effects. We propose that infections ‘prime’ the immune cells in the brain so that a second insult, disease or old age has an increased potential to cause permanent damage to nerve cells. We believe that understanding how infections affect the young and aged brain will lead to interventions to improve the quality of life of the elderly with brain disease.

Project Overview

In this project we will investigate how systemic inflammation caused by bacterial or viral infections communicates with the innate immune cells of the brain: the microglia. We propose that this communication primes the microglia such that they give an exaggerated response to a secondary insult or injury to the brain. We will investigate whether the priming of microglia is further exaggerated in aged animals after a systemic infection, leading to excessive secretion of inflammatory cytokines and mediators within the brain following a secondary insult. We propose that this exaggerated priming of microglia contributes to brain injury and neurodegenerative disease progression in the elderly.

Related research groups

Biomedical Sciences




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