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Immunology

Immunology is the study of the immune system, which provides defence for the body against viruses, bacteria and parasites. It also functions in protection against cancer. The immune system uses multiple mechanisms to recognize and respond to 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. Among the important cells of the innate immune system are Natural Killer (NK) and gamma-delta T cells.  The adaptive (acquired) immune response 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 cells make antibodies, which neutralize viruses and extracellular bacteria, whereas T cells kill cells infected with viruses and intracellular bacteria, and also secrete cytokines, which help in antibody production. Innate and adaptive responses are tightly controlled by anti-inflammatory cytokines and regulatory T cells. A failure in immune regulation can result both in dysregulated responses to pathogens that harm the host and in immune responses to self-antigens, leading to 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 cytokine 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.

Immunology teaching and research in the School

There are currently ten academic staff within Immunology [PIs], all of whom head up very active research groups and participate in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching. Those studying Immunology at undergraduate [Undergraduate Programmes] or graduate level [MSc in Immunology] are taught by a cohort of staff working at the cutting edge of global immunology research.  These scientists are passionate about communicating both fundamental concepts of Immunology as well as the key recent breakthroughs. Immunology staff also ‘teach into the community’ through multiple forums such as public lectures, schools programmes, and print and radio media. See Science for everyone

Immunology research is a recognized strength of TCD and of Ireland, due in no small part to the Immunology staff, who consistently publish their research in high-impact journals and speak at international conferences. For example, Irish Immunology was ranked first in the world in 2012 by the Nature Publishing Group, based on publications in the world's top Immunology journal, Nature Immunology, many of which are authored by immunologists in the School.
The current strengths [PIs] of The School of Biochemistry and Immunology are in the areas of innate immunity, especially pattern recognition receptor 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.

Immunology staff

Prof Andrew Bowie Viral Immune Evasion
Dr Aisling Dunne Molecular Immunology
Dr Jean Fletcher Translational Immunology
Dr Clair Gardiner Natural Killer Cells
Prof Ed Lavelle Adjuvant Research
Dr Lydia Lynch Innate Immunity
Dr Rachel McLoughlin Host Pathogen Interactions
Prof Kingston Mills Immune Regulation Research
Prof Cliona O'Farrelly Comparative Immunology
Prof Luke O'Neill Inflammation Research
Dr Fred Sheedy Macrophage Homeostasis
Dr Nigel Stevenson Intracellular Immunology

Last updated 25 November 2016 bbutler@tcd.ie (Email).