Professor Andrew MacDonald

04 March 2016, Infectious and Parasitic Diseases , International visits and visitors

Andrew MacDonald, Professor of Immunology at the Manchester Collaborative Centre for Inflammation Research (MCCIR) shares a common interest with many Malaghan Institute staff; the so-called Type 2 inflammation involved in allergic diseases which is paradoxically, the same immune response our body instigates when it is getting rid of a parasite such as a worm.  While in Wellington he spent time with Professor Graham Le Gros and his Allergic and Parasitic Diseases group and Professor Franca Ronchese’s Immune Cell Biology group.

Our immune system has evolved for thousands, if not millions of years. We tolerate parasites, but only up to a certain point. Eventually our immune system – the T helper 2 cells in particular – are activated to get rid of the parasite.  This type 2 inflammation is the same one we see in allergies and asthma, but there are many unanswered questions for researchers to investigate; the immunology ‘dictionary’ is being expanded each year.

Originally from Scotland, Professor MacDonald says he seeks the same thing that many researcher seek; to understand how immune pathways are initiated and sustained.  He says, “We know the players involved.  The Dendritic cells scan and sample the body constantly but the specific immune responses they set off, and how they are sustained is complex, and there are various sites around the body, the liver, the skin and the lungs which all offer a different research landscape.  

"Our work aims to understand how diseases caused by inflammation can be prevented. We are working to try and identify how Type 2 inflammation is switched on and off, and how it relates to other forms of immune response to attain the ‘ideal’ balance - where people are protected from infection but don’t suffer unwanted side effects from over-exuberant or poorly regulated inflammation.

The Malaghan Institute takes a slightly different approaches to what my lab in Manchester does, using different experimental systems and techniques to investigate the chemical and molecular pathways of interest.  That is one of the reasons collaboration and cooperation is so vital.  It will get us over the line eventually to provide newer and safer treatments for conditions that cause so much suffering around the world.”