My research interests for the past twelve years have been focused on various aspects of cellular senescence, with particular emphasis on ageing and age-related disease. I undertook my PhD at the University of Brighton (UK) where I published the first data suggesting that senescent vascular smooth muscle cells adopt a pro-calcificatory phenotype that could play a role in cardiovascular disease. During this time I developed an interest in the possible role of the immune system in eliminating senescent cells, an area of research that is now beginning to emerge. After my PhD I undertook a Postdoctoral position at the University of Miami (USA) to investigate the potential role of cellular senescence in prostate cancer progression following therapy. Following this two year position I got the opportunity to move to the Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel) to not only attempt to identify potential molecular targets for specifically killing senescent cells, but also to pursue my long-term interests concerning the interaction of senescent cells with components of the immune system.
Since my scientific background is mainly focused on molecular cell biology, I wanted to expand my skill set into the field of immunology so that I would be more effective at bridging the divide between research on cellular senescence and that of immunology. To this end, I contacted Prof Helen Griffiths at the Aston University (Birmingham, UK) to co-write a Marie Curie Fellowship grant based on various ideas I have accumulated over the years. What made the Marie Curie Fellowship particular pertinent to myself was the emphasis on developing new skills in other research areas, immunology in my case, in addition to providing training that would enable me to become a more effective independent research leader in the future. I was confident that if I was awarded the Marie Curie Fellowship, Aston University would be more than capable of helping me achieve my end goals.
So of course I was ecstatic when I found out earlier this year that I was awarded a Marie Curie Research Fellowship for my project entitled “The interaction and clearance of senescent vascular cells by the innate immune system” (more on this in a later blog) which I have now started as of 1st June 2015. It is now coming up to three months at the Aston University, so what are my thoughts so far? You will have to wait for my next blog.
Aston University profile page: http://www.aston.ac.uk/lhs/staff/az-index/dr-dominick-burton/