Obesity & Immunology Research Group

Group Overview

Established in 2005, the Obesity Immunology Research group’s work focuses on the effects of obesity, smoking, sex hormones, gut peptide hormones and colorectal cancer on the immune system, specifically innate immune cells; the invariant Natural Killer T cell, Natural Killer cells and Dendritic cells amongst others. The research findings have established that these outlined conditions/factors impair the immune responses, potentially increasing susceptibility to infection, cancer and autoimmunity.

The group, based on the St Vincent’s University campus, coordinates international, collaborative, translational research in Obesity and its complications. The group comprises researchers with laboratory, statistical and clinical research expertise and is funded through the Health Research Board, the National Children’s Research Centre and a number of industry supporters.

More Information About UCD Obesity & Immunology Research Group

Current studies include;

  1. Investigating the effects of GLP-1 and other Type 2 Diabetes medications on innate immune cells and inflammation: Obesity and obesity related comorbidities have been to found to negatively impact innate immune cells. A novel clinical finding uncovered the positive effect that a GLP-1 analogue elicited on the psoriatic inflammatory condition. This gave rise to a number of in vitro studies attempting to uncover the mechanism by which GLP-1 reduces inflammation.
  2. Investigating the effects of chronic inflammation and innate immune cell dysregulation in obese children and adolescents: The innate immune system in a paediatric cohort (mean age 12 years) displays the same pattern of dysregulation seen in adults patients (mean age 46). This paediatric cohort exhibit worrying patterns of gene expression involved in tumour suppression and metabolic control.
  3. Enumerating invariant Natural Killer Cells (iNKT) in Obese patients with obstructive sleep apnoea: The iNKT cell plays an important role in tumour defence, prognosis and may play a role in weight management. A cohort of obese patients attending the Sleep Apnoea. It was found that patients suffering with severe sleep apnoea had reduced numbers of iNKT cells with reduced functionality.
  4. Adipose Tissue iNKT cells Protect against Diet Induced Obesity and Metabolic Disorder through Regulatory Cytokine Production: This study was performed using a mouse model and the main finding of this work highlights the potential of iNKT cell-targeted therapies, previously proven to be safe in humans, in the management of obesity and its consequences.

A number of pilot clinical studies are underway also;

  1. A pilot study to determine the effects of Vitamin D Supplementation on physical function and inflammatory markers in the severely Obese.
  2. Assessing the role of 11 ß-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenase Type 1 (11ß-HSD1) in obesity: Tissue cortisol metabolism is controlled by 11ß-HSD1 and is postulated to be involved in the pathogenesis of obesity and its complications.
  3. Effects of Normalising Testosterone and Oestradiol Levels on Cardiovascular and Bone Health in Men with Severe Obesity: A Randomized Clinical Trial.

The group have had a successful year with a number of publications and conference presentations.

Research Team

Prof Donal O'Shea
Associate Clinical Professor

Dr Andrew Hogan
PhD Immunologist / Senior Scientist

Dr Lydia Lynch
PhD Immunologist / Research Fellow

Dr Michelle Corrigan
PhD Molecular Biologist / Scientist

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Dr Tomas Ahern
HRB Clinical Training Fellow in Endocrinology

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Dr Eirin Carolan
Research Fellow in Paediatric Endocrinology

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Ms Cathy Breen
Dietitian

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Dr Aftab Khattak
Clinical Research Fellow in Endocrinology

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Dr Conor Woods
Clinical Research Fellow in Endocrinology

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Dr Gadintshware Gaoatswe
Clinical Research Fellow in Endocrinology

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Dr Matt Armin
Research Registrar in Endocrinology

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Associated Researchers

  • Dr Andrew Hogan, PhD
  • Dr Lydia Lynch, PhD
  • Dr Michelle Corrigan, PhD
  • Dr Tomas Ahern, PhD
  • Dr Eirin Carolan, PhD
  • Dr Gadintshware Gaoatswe, MD
  • Dr Conor Woods, PhD
  • Ms Cathy Breen, PhD
  • Dr Aftab Khattak, MD
  • Dr Matt Armin, MD

Director Biography

Prof. Donal O'Shea is a consultant endocrinologist and physician based in St Vincent’s University Hospital and St Columcilles Hospital. He is the principle investigator in a research group that currently focuses on the study of the health consequences of obesity.