It’s accepted that the aging process alters the innate and adaptive immune system such that vaccine efficacy, for instance, become sub-optimal while wound repair processes are compromised. Moreover, fibroblasts acquire the Senescence-Associated Secretory Phenotype thereby becoming hyper-inflammatory while pro-inflammatory cytokines are synthesised more readily and macrophage phagocytosis become impaired. While these disparate effects have been observed in rodents and garnered from various in vitro studies, we investigated the impact of ageing on the onset, progression and resolution of acute inflammation in aged versus young volunteers. Using cantharidin-induced skin blistering as a window into the immune system we found that some aspects of innate immunity weren’t as affected by aged as currently believed, while other phases of the inflammatory cascade, namely resolution, were defective leading to an accumulation of leukocyte debris. We identified the pathway that regulates this defect and found that it could be reversed pharmacologically in the elderly.
In 1997 Derek Gilroy obtained his PhD from the William Harvey Research Institute, University of London for investigations in the role of inducible cyclooxygenase in inflammation working with the late Professors Derek Willoughby and Sir John Vane. Thereafter, he left The William Harvey to receive postdoctoral training with Dr. Kenneth Wu, jointly at the University of Houston Texas and at Academia Sinica, Taipei, Tawian from 1998-2000. After which time, he returned to the William Harvey Research Institute for a further 4 years. In 2004, Derek was appointed as New Blood lecturer funded as a Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellow at the Division of Medicine, Rayne Building, University College London. In 2009 he became a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow and in 2010 was promoted to Professor of Experimental Immunology. At University College he is now Head of the Centre for Clinical Pharmacology where he has pioneered research examining the molecular and biochemical pathways that regulates the resolution of acute immune reactions. Prof. Gilroy has won the Bayer International Young Investigator Award for aspirin Research, 2005 and the British Pharmacological Society, Norvartis Award, 2007.