Experimental and Translational Medicine


Immunosenescence and Ageing

The centre for 'Immunosenescence and Ageing' is lead by Professor Arne Akbar. The centre investigates mechanisms that control the differentiation and senescence/ageing of human T lymphocytes. They are also one of the first to identify human regulatory T cells and show that they are maintained by a high rate of proliferation in vivo.

Head of Centre

Professor Arne Akbar
Professor of Immunology

Research area

Leukocyte differentiation and ageing in humans.

Research programme

Research summary

For the last 15 years my laboratory has focused on mechanisms of immune decline during ageing and we have identified a key role of p38 MAP kinase signalling in regulating both nutrient and senescence sensing pathways in human T cells.

We also developed new technology for investigating immunity in human skin in vivo that have been adopted by other research groups in both academia and the biotech industry. Current collaborations using these methods include those with The University of Arizona, The Rockefeller University (New York) and the National University of Singapore.

The interaction between clinicians and scientists in my group has facilitated the translational aspects of our work that has led to the recent award of a MRC Experimental Medicine Grant (Akbar PI; £3.2 million) to investigate responses to recall antigen challenge in the skin of older humans after blocking p38MAP kinase.


Lanna A, Gomes DCO, Muller-Durovic B, et al. A sestrin-dependent Erk-Jnk-p38 MAPK activation complex inhibits immunity during aging. Nat Immunol. 2017;18(3):354-363. doi:10.1038/ni.3665

Pereira BI, De Maeyer RPH, Covre LP, et al. Sestrins induce natural killer function in senescent-like CD8+ T cells. Nat Immunol. 2020;21(6):684-694. doi:10.1038/s41590-020-0643-3

Chambers ES, Vukmanovic-Stejic M, Shih BB, et al. Recruitment of inflammatory monocytes by senescent fibroblasts inhibits antigen-specific tissue immunity during human aging. Nat Aging. 2021;1(1):101-113. doi:10.1038/s43587-020-00010-6

UCL Courses

MEDC0068 Lecture: Ageing and the immune system
Immunological Basis of Disease (MEDC0068) | UCL Module Catalogue - UCL – University College London


Prof Akbar joined host Gordon Lithgow at The Buck Institute in California to break down the array of actors and pathways involved, including sestrins, immune memory, the gut microbiome, and more. Along the way, Prof Akbar highlights the need to connect across research areas, and shares why courage is the most important quality for a scientist to cultivate: https://www.buckinstitute.org/podcasts/immunity-and-beyond/

A recent publication by the Akbar group was highlighted by BBC Online Science (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8226129.stm). In addition Prof. Akbar was interviewed for a programme on BBC Radio 4 programme 'inside health' that discussed ageing and immunity http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b012qtw0.

Two videos for lay audiences that highlight the research into immune ageing that is being performed by the Akbar Group are available on Youtube (https://youtu.be/l_426Pamxcc) and (http://youtu.be/oQ-unC7D9i4). We have also produced a recent video that highlights the impact of a previous MRC Grand Challenge Grant (https://youtu.be/6LGzDFsmOj8) that is aimed at volunteer recruitment and communication of our research to a lay audience.

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttp://youtu.be/oQ-unC7D9i4


YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://youtu.be/6LGzDFsmOj8



  • Medical Research Council (MRC)
  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
  • LEO Foundation
  • Dermatrust
  • British Skin Foundation
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
  • Newton Fund


  • Janet Lord, University of Birmingham
  • Tao Dong, University of Oxford
  • Menna Clatworthy, University of Cambridge
  • David Mosser, University of Maryland
  • James Krueger, The Rockefeller University
  • Karolina Palucka, The Jackson Laboratory
  • Paul Macary, National University of Singapore
  • Jonathan Crowston, National University of Singapore