Macrophages are at the forefront of immune defence against pathogens and tumours. They exhibit a degree of functional plasticity which, when dysregulated, contribute to inflammatory pathology and cancer. Research centres on the role of mucosal macrophages in homeostasis and pathology; with the specific aim of manipulation of plasticity and functional activation/suppression as a future cell-based therapeutic regimen in the treatment of gut diseases (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, colorectal cancer) and oral mucosal diseases (chronic periodontitis and oral squamous cell carcinoma).
Studies of macrophages are hampered by the limited life-span and restricted numbers of primary tissue macrophages that can be obtained for experiments. We have established a novel, continuously growing, non-transformed model of lung alveolar macrophages (AMs), cells that play key roles in important diseases such as lung infection, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This new system has already made possible the identification of several, previously unknown, innate immune phenomena in AMs and we are now analysing the underlying molecular details to allow development of drugs that can influence AM activity in various pathology states.