Dealing with cell death – an ageing problem?

Lois Hawkins, Helen Griffiths, Andrew Devitt

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferencePoster


The aged population have an increased susceptibility to infection, therefore function of the innate immune system may be impaired as we age. Macrophages, and their precursors monocytes, play an important role in host defence in the form of phagocytosis, and also link the innate and adaptive immune system via antigen presentation. Classically-activated ‘M1’ macrophages are pro-inflammatory, which can be induced by encountering pathogenic material or pro-inflammatory mediators. Alternatively activated ‘M2’ macrophages have a largely reparative role, including clearance of apoptotic bodies and debris from tissues. Despite some innate immune receptors being implicated in the clearance of apoptotic cells, the process has been observed to have a dominant anti-inflammatory phenotype with cytokines such as IL-10 and TGF-ß being implicated.

The atherosclerotic plaque contains recruited monocytes and macrophages, and is a highly inflammatory environment despite high levels of apoptosis. At these sites, monocytes differentiate into macrophages and gorge on lipoproteins, resulting in formation of ‘foam cells’ which then undergo apoptosis, recruiting further monocytes. This project seeks to understand why, given high levels of apoptosis, the plaque is a pro-inflammatory environment. This phenomenon may be the result of the aged environment or an inability of foam cells to elicit an anti-inflammatory effect in response to dying cells.

Here we demonstrate that lipoprotein treatment of macrophages in culture results in reduced capacity to clear apoptotic cells. The capability of lipoprotein treated macrophages to respond to inflammatory stimuli is also shown. Monocyte recruitment to the plaque is currently under study, as is apoptotic cell-mediated immune modulation of human monocyte-derived macrophages.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012
EventBritish Society for Research on Ageing - Birmingham, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Jul 20124 Jul 2012


ConferenceBritish Society for Research on Ageing
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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