Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Roel De Maeyer

Research Fellow

Using human immune challenge models to understand the link between inflammation and immunity in ageing

I am an early career researcher currently holding an Oxford-BMS fellowship focusing on establishing novel human immune challenge (HIC) models to provide robust and reproducible platforms with which to interrogate early phase experimental medicines.

I obtained my PhD in 2018 from University College London, where I worked on acute inflammatory responses in older people with Prof Derek Gilroy. This is where I first started to use existing models, such as the cantharidin skin blister, and develop novel human immune challenge models including the UV-killed E. coli skin immune challenge. The aim of these models is to understand human inflammation and how and why it goes awry with age. Ultimately, using the cantharidin skin blister model, my colleagues and I found that ageing causes improper inflammatory resolution resulting in chronicity. We discovered this was due to impaired efferocytosis, the process by which phagocytes such as monocytes and macrophages eat and clear dying cells (which amass in tissues during inflammation). Interestingly, we were able to rejuvenate this response therapeutically, highlighting the tractability of using HIC platforms in drug discovery.

Following on from my PhD, I built upon my knowledge of dysregulated immunity with age by joining the lab of Prof Arne Akbar at UCL. To complement my understanding of inflammation and myeloid cell function, I focused on T cell ageing and the molecular processes underlying this. In an internationally collaborative effort, we managed to discover how stress-sensing pathways in CD8 T cells can alter their phenotype resulting in a switch away from TCR-specific to Natural Killer-like cytotoxicity in older T cells. The relevance, induction, and targetability of aged T cells is an area of ongoing interest for me and I see our novel HICs providing much needed insight into this area.

Currently, I am working on establishing the Keyhole Limpet Hemocyanin (KLH) HIC model, together with our team at the Botnar and the Kennedy, as well as our industrial partner Bristol-Myers Squibb. We aim to develop the most robust neo-antigen driven HIC to date and make use of novel non-invasive techniques to improve the current drug discovery pipeline archetype. Going forward, I am mainly interested in applying these models to settings of dysregulated immunity such as ageing and autoimmunity.

For info on the KLH study please visit our study website (we are always looking for volunteers to participate!)

I have been a member of the British Society for Immunology since 2013 and am currently Chair of the Oxford Immunology Group. I am part of the CARINA (Catalyst Reducing ImmuNe Ageing) network, one of eleven MRC and BBSRC-funded networks aimed at transforming ageing research in the UK. I am currently also acting as a review editor focusing on ageing and immunity for Frontiers.

Key publications

Recent publications

More publications