Dr David O’Sullivan: the immune system and metabolic health

15 July 2020

Cells need fuel in order to grow and function. Immune cells are no different. What we eat, and whether we’re eating the right kinds of food, can affect how well the immune system works in the body.

To better understand how the immune system fuels itself – otherwise known as immune metabolism – the Translational Immunology team has recruited returning Kiwi scientist Dr David O’Sullivan.

Dr O’Sullivan completed his doctoral studies in multiple sclerosis research with Institute Research Associate Professor Anne La Flamme. Since then, Dr O’Sullivan has worked at both Washington University in the United States and at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, investigating T-cell metabolism and how different nutrients affect their function. Having returned to Wellington and the Malaghan Institute, Dr O’Sullivan is working with Translational Immunology Group Leader Dr Olivier Gasser to apply his expertise to our immune health research as part of the High- Value Nutrition National Science Challenge.

“I’ll be working in the translational space looking at nutritional components or bioactive compounds from food groups and how these influence the immune cell metabolism and function,” says Dr O’Sullivan. “Just like in the saying ‘you are what you eat’, what nutrients immune cells are exposed to influences their behaviour. We’re trying to leverage bioactive compounds that are found in nutritional food products in a way that benefits immune cell function.”

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