Prof Janet Lord

 

  • Professor of Immune Cell Biology, University of Birmingham

Qualifications

  • PhD Biological Sciences 1983
  • BSc (Hons) Human Biology 1979

Current work

Janet Lord is Director of the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Healthy Ageing Research and is also head of the University’s Centre for Translational Inflammation Research, which is located within the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.

Janet’s research focuses on the innate immune system, the body’s front-line defence against infection, and how the efficiency of this system is affected by ageing and stress, the latter including physical trauma and emotional stress such as bereavement. In all of her work she aims to translate research findings into interventions, whether lifestyle or pharmacological, to improve immunity.

Janet has published over 125 research papers in scientific journals, as well as reviews and book chapters in the fields of immunesenescence, chronic inflammatory disease and neuroendocrineimmune biology. Her research is currently funded by grants from Arthritis Research UK, Research into Ageing, BBSRC, ESRC, the European Commission and the BUPA Foundation.

She is an enthusiastic communicator of her science and gives frequent talks to groups at both the local and national level, including public lectures at The Royal Society, the BirminghamScienceMuseum and the British Science Festival.

Biography

Janet Lord began her research career in the field of diabetes, gaining a PhD from the University of Aston in 1983 researching the link between obesity, diabetes and ageing. She went on to investigate signalling pathways involved in regulating insulin secretion, working with Steve Ashcroft at Oxford University, revealing the key role played by protein kinase C in this process. She returned to Birmingham and was awarded a Royal Society University Fellowship in 1989, allowing her to set up her own group looking at cell signalling in immune cells and its dysregulation in disease. She was promoted to the chair in immune cell biology in 2004.

She has made seminal contributions to the field of apoptosis, defining the PKC isoenzyme PKC-delta as an apoptotic lamin kinase and showing for the first time that the very short lifespan of neutrophils was due to their ability to activate death receptor signalling pathways in the absence of death receptor ligation. Her research has identified several novel therapeutic targets based upon the induction of apoptosis, most notably members of the PKC family.

In the last decade she has become interested in the effect of ageing upon neutrophil function, including how innate immunity is regulated by the endocrine system. In 2010 she showed for the first time that the major adrenal steroid dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate was able to enhance neutrophil bactericidal function, revealing for the first time a biological function for this hormone distinct from its role as a precursor for the androgen DHEA.

Professor Lord and her team now focus upon characterising signaling pathways that regulate innate immune cell function, with a special interest in the bactericidal processes and survival of neutrophils. This knowledge is used to develop novel therapies in three main areas; Immune senescence (loss of immune function with ageing), chronic inflammatory disease (Rheumatoid Arthritis) and Acute Myeloid Leukaemia.