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Immunology

Assessing Host Immune Response to Stem Cell and Gene Therapy

Immunology and Stem Cells

The future success of stem cell therapies is intimately linked to the interaction of these cells with the immune system of the individual patient receiving treatment, especially in how it responds to transplanted cells and genes for developing new therapeutic strategies.  We know now that one of the most important beneficial actions of mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) and other stem cells is to suppress and modify potentially harmful inflammation and immune activity in the body.  Despite this, there is also evidence that like organ transplants, MSCs from a healthy donor may be rejected by the recipients' immune system in a process termed the 'allogeneic immune response'.

 

The REMEDI Immunology Programme

The immunology programme at REMEDI aims to understand the mechanisms of host tolerance to delivered cells and genes. The success of gene therapy relies largely on the availability of gene delivery vectors that confer therapeutic gene expression in target organs with minimal adverse affects on the host. The programme is aimed at addressing the immunological consequences to the host of the use of viral vectors such as Adeno Associated Virus (AAV) vectors and Lentiviral vectors for therapeutic gene delivery.

The REMEDI Immunology Group comprises Prof. Matthew Griffin, Prof. Rhodri Crerdig and Dr. Thomas Ritter at NUI, Galway and Dr. Bernard Mahon at the Institute of Immunology, NUI Maynooth. Working in collaboration with the REMEDI programmes in Basic Stem Cell Biology, Cardiovascular Disease and Orthobiologics, they are leading a cadre of PhD students and postdoctoral researchers towards a better understanding of the MSC/immune system. 

There is a particular focus on: (a) Overcoming the allogeneic immune response to "off the shelf" MSC therapies from healthy donors, (b)Developing new strategies to improve the immune suppressive effects of MSC in cardiovascular and orthopaedic states, (c) Measuring the immune potency of therapeutic MSC and, (d) Discovering novel molecular underlying MSC modulation of immune cells.

Selected Publications: 

English, K., Barry, F. P. and Mahon, B. P. (2008) Murine mesenchymal stem cells suppress dendritic cell migration, maturation and antigen presentation. Immunol Lett, 115, 50-8.