We are exposed to potentially dangerous microorganisms every moment of every day. Potential pathogens are in the air we breathe, the things we touch, and the food we eat. Even our microbiota harbours potential pathogens, yet we are healthy most of the time. Specialized white blood cells called macrophages are sentinel cells that help maintain the relationship with our microbiota while protecting us from invading pathogens. Macrophages, and their precursors, monocytes, are attuned to their microenvironment. They continually sense signals from the tissues around them and adjust their behaviour. As we age, levels of inflammatory cytokines, reactive oxygen species, damaged proteins, and bacterial products increase, and these external signals alter monocyte and macrophage development and function in ways that increase the risk of infection.
As we age, our adaptive immune system is also continuously remodelled by extrinsic factors such as previous exposures to pathogens, medications, and environmental exposures, and intrinsic factors such as biologic sex, and chronic health conditions. Age-related changes in the adaptive immune response alter responses to vaccination.
Collectively, age-associated inflammation and immune remodelling increase the risk of respiratory infections, decrease vaccine efficacy, and contribute to the long-term health issues that occur after infection. The vision of the Bowdish lab is to provide older adults with more years of healthy, independent living by preventing serious respiratory infections. To do this we aim to understand why and how the aging immune system changes, uncover why older adults are more susceptible to respiratory infections, and find novel treatments to prevent both infection and the long-term health issues that can occur after serious infections (See Projects page for details). The work in our lab is creative, innovative, ambitious and collaborative. We aim to be a resource to our colleagues and to train highly motivated students and post-doctoral fellows to become world class scientists. We are always interested in hearing from motivated researchers who are interested in a career in infectious disease research.The Bowdish lab is located in the M. G. DeGroote Centre for Learning & Discovery at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. We are part of the Department of Medicine in the Faculty of Health Sciences, the Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health, and the Institute for Infectious Disease Research and the McMaster Immunology Research Centre. As such we have access to the state of the art facilities at McMaster including the Human Immune Testing Suite.
To learn a bit more about our research, see this video produced by the Research to Reality social media campaign.