Chris Haslett's group studies the cell biology of lung inflammation and scarring (particularly granulocyte biology and apoptosis), molecular imaging and clinical translational research.
After a three-year MRC Travelling Fellowship in Peter Henson's laboratory (Denver, CO) where he did novel research on neutrophil priming and trafficking and discovered neutrophil apoptosis, Chris returned in 1985 to the Royal Postgraduate Medical as MRC Senior Clinical Fellow. There he set up a small group to define the role of granulocyte apoptosis in the resolution and control of inflammation. The group was joined consecutively by John Savill and Moira Whyte as MRC Training Fellows and a number of key discoveries were made. In collaboration with the MRC Cyclotron Unit at the RPMS Chris also carried out new research on PET imaging to quantify lung inflammation and scarring.
In 1990 he moved to Edinburgh and was joined by Ian Dransfield and Edwin Chilvers, and subsequently by Tariq Sethi, Seamus Donnelly and Adriano Rossi. Funded by consecutive MRC programme grants, the focus was on harnessing the apoptotic and recognition processes to drive resolution of inflammation/scarring processes culminating in the key discovery (Rossi et al Nat Med. 2006 Sep;12(9):1056-64) that cdk inhibitors could 'drive' neutrophil apoptosis and promote the resolution of inflammatory/scarring processes, thus 'squaring the circle' of 20 years of apoptosis research.
Chris also renewed his interest in neutrophil-generated lung injury and molecular imaging of lung inflammation/fibrosis. With Seamus Donnelly, key observations were made in the early risk period of the devastating disease ARDS. In the past five years he has joined forces with Mark Bradley (Professor of high-throughput chemistry UoE) and Kev Dhaliwal (Lecturer in Respiratory Medicine) to create a new cadre of chemists/biologists that will meet the challenges of the molecular imaging 'revolution'. Funded by major grants from the MRC and Wellcome Trust this group has now created novel optical imaging 'smartprobes' which, partnered by in-vivo bronchoscopic confocal microscopy, are now ready for 'first-into-man' application in lung inflammation fibrosis.
The discovery of granulocyte apoptosis and the recognition of its likely role in the pathogenesis of inflammatory disease has stimulated research in this field in many laboratories internationally. The recent demonstration that it can be harnessed for potential benefit provides a new approach to the treatment of currently intractable inflammatory diseases of the lung and other organs. There is considerable interest in our new optical imaging approach to detecting 'real-time' specific molecular events deep in diseased human tissues. This will provide novel tools for drug design, patient stratification and rapid assessment of drug efficacy.