We are studying how immune cells develop and work, and we are also looking at how genetic changes cause different aspects of Down syndrome.
The immune system contains many different types of cells, which all work together to keep us healthy. We are interested in immune cells known as lymphocytes, which can be split into two groups: B and T cells. B cells recognise and attack invading pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses, while T cells deal with cells that have already been infected.
We are studying the molecular signals that are sent within B and T cells that tell them what job to do, where to go, when to attack and even when to die. We are also finding out how immune cells stick to other cells or tissues in the body, which plays a vital role in normal life and in disease, and how they ‘remember’ which infections they have previously fought.
We are also investigating Down syndrome, which affects around one in every 750 babies born in the UK and causes a range of health problems. Down syndrome is caused by inheriting three copies of chromosome 21 instead of two, meaning that people with the condition have an extra copy of all the genes on that chromosome.
To find out more about the impact of these additional genes, we are creating mice that have been genetically engineered to carry extra copies of the genes on chromosome 21. We are studying these animals in great detail to find out which genes are important and how they affect the brain and body.