Dr Barry McColl
The overall goal of our research is to understand neuroimmune mechanisms influencing brain injury, repair and disease in order to identify new targets for treatments.
- 2018-present, UK Dementia Research Institute Fellow & Senior Lecturer, University of Edinburgh
- 2014-2018, Group Leader, The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh
- 2010-2014, Tenure-track fellow, The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh
- 2008-2010, Postdoctoral research associate, University of Manchester (PIs Douglas Kell, Nancy Rothwell)
- 2004-2008, Postdoctoral research associate, University of Manchester (PIs Nancy Rothwell, Stuart Allan)
- 2000-2004 PhD, University of Glasgow (PI Karen Horsburgh)
- 1996-2000 BSc (Hons) Neuroscience, University of Glasgow
The overall goal of our research is to understand neuroimmune mechanisms influencing brain injury, repair and disease in order to identify new targets for treatments. We have particular interests in cerebrovascular disease (stroke and vascular cognitive disorders) and neurodegenerative diseases linked to dysfunction of microglia and neuroimmune regulation. Research in the lab largely encompasses three major strands each of which involves a range of molecular, cellular and organismal approaches using preclinical models, human samples and patient-based investigation.
Microglial mechanisms of resilience and susceptibility to neurodegenerative disease
Microglia are the specialised brain resident macrophages with important developmental, physiological and neuroinflammatory functions. Their dysfunction is increasingly implicated in neurodegenerative diseases leading to dementia. Work in our lab has contributed to the growing recognition of considerable diversity in microglial phenotypes in the healthy, ageing and diseased brain. This diversity may predispose to susceptibility or resilience to disease and influence the course of disease in space and time in distinct ways. The discovery of dementia-causing neurodegenerative diseases where mutations in microglial-expressed genes appear causal or increase risk and which show distinctive vulnerability in specific neuroanatomical compartments (particularly white matter), supports a disease-modifying role for microglia in disease. Our work is using models of neurodegenerative disease and human tissue to explore mechanisms that regulate microglial phenotype, how phenotypic diversity confers resilience and susceptibility to disease, and to identify potential therapeutic targets directed at manipulating or restoring microglial function.
Myeloid cells in brain injury and repair
Myeloid cells are the key orchestrators of innate immune responses and inflammation. As in other tissues, inflammation can have harmful effects in the brain that can aggravate injury but some forms of activity by certain subsets of inflammatory cells is important to enable injured brain tissue to heal and promote recovery of function. Our research is examining regulatory factors that control the subtypes of myeloid cells that accumulate in the injured brain (e.g. after ischaemic and haemorrhagic stroke) and their diverse activation states which we believe is crucial to understand the balance between harmful and helpful inflammation and to identify pro-repair/regenerative phenotypes. Using preclinical models, we are also testing the effects of myeloid cell-targeted compounds to manipulate these cells towards tissue repair phenotypes.
Neuroimmune signalling and systemic immune dysfunction after stroke
Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability and in addition to the brain damage itself, complicating factors have an important bearing on outcome and functional recovery. Pneumonia is common after stroke and is one of the most important stroke complications associated with poor outcome. Our work has contributed to the increasing recognition that stroke can cause suppression of certain aspects of systemic immune function that normally protects us from infection. These changes may partly explain the high risk of pneumonia and other infections in stroke patients and could offer new approaches for prevention. In particular, we study how B cell function may be impaired after stroke including dysfunction of certain subtypes of B cells with innate-like functions providing protection early after infection. Neural signalling, such as via the sympathetic nerves, appears important in driving dysfunction of B cells and other immune cells after stroke and our ongoing work is investigating this brain-to-immune signalling in more detail. We are also investigating if treatments that could rescue B cell function (or compensate for their impairments) could be beneficial in preventing stroke-associated infection.
Alison Harris, Research technician
Adrian Olmos-Alonso, Research Fellow
Caoimhe Kirby, PhD student
Clare Latta, PhD student
Colin Crawford, Research Fellow
Gaia Brezzo, Research Fellow
Jamie Loan, PhD student
Lucas Lefevre, Research assistant
Laura McCulloch, Postdoctoral Fellow
Makis Tzioras, PhD student
Mike Daniels, Postdoctoral Fellow
Stefan Szymkowiak, PhD student
Patir A, Shih B, McColl BW, Freeman TC (2019). A core transcriptional signature of human microglia: Derivation and utility in describing region-dependent alterations associated with Alzheimer's disease. Glia 67:1240-1253 https://doi.org/10.1002/glia.23572 PMID: 30758077
Greenhalgh AD, Zarruk JG, Healy LM, Baskar Jesudasan SJ, Jhelum P, Salmon CK, Formanek A, Russo MV, Antel JP, McGavern DB, McColl BW, David S (2018). Peripherally derived macrophages modulate microglial function to reduce inflammation after CNS injury. PLoS Biol 16:e2005264 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2005264 PMID: 3033240.
McCulloch L, Alfieri A, McColl BW (2018). Experimental Stroke Differentially Affects Discrete Subpopulations of Splenic Macrophages. Front Immunol, 9:1108. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2018.01108 PMID: 29872438
Manso Y, Holland PR, Kitamura A, Szymkowiak S, Duncombe J, Hennessy E, Searcy JL, Marangoni M, Randall AD, Brown JT, McColl BW, Horsburgh K (2018) Minocycline reduces microgliosis and improves subcortical white matter function in a model of cerebral vascular disease. Glia 66:34-46 https://doi.org/10.1002/glia.23190 PMID: 28722234
Grabert K, McColl BW (2018). Isolation and Phenotyping of Adult Mouse Microglial Cells. Methods Mol Biol, 1784:77-86. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-7837-3_7 PMID: 29761389
McQueen J, Ryan TJ, McKay S, Marwick K, Baxter P, Carpanini SM, Wishart TM, Gillingwater TH, Manson JC, Wyllie DJA, Grant SGN, McColl BW, Komiyama NH, Hardingham GE (2017) Pro-death NMDA receptor signaling is promoted by the GluN2B C-terminus independently of Dapk1. eLife 6 https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.17161
McCulloch L, Smith CJ, McColl BW. Adrenergic-mediated loss of splenic marginal zone B cells contributes to infection susceptibility after stroke (2017) Nat Commun 8:15051https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms15051 PMID: 28422126
Owens R*, Grabert K*, Davies CL, Alfieri A, Antel JP, Healy LM, McColl BW (2017). Divergent neuroinflammatory regulation of microglial TREM expression and involvement of NF-kappaB. Front Cell Neurosci 11:56 https://doi.org/10.3389/fncel.2017.00056 PMID: 28303091
Grabert K, Michoel T, Karavalos M, Clohisey S, Baillie JK, Stevens MP, Freeman TC, Summers KM, McColl BW (2016) Microglial brain region−dependent diversity and selective regional sensitivities to aging. Nat Neurosci 19:504-516 https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.4222 PMID: 26780511
Giles JA, Greenhalgh AD, Davies CL, Denes A, Shaw T, Coutts G, Rothwell NJ, McColl BW*, Allan SM* (2015) Requirement for interleukin-1 to drive brain inflammation reveals tissue-specific mechanisms of innate immunity. Eur J Immunol 45:525-530.*authors contributed equally https://doi.org/10.1002/eji.201444748 PMID: 25367678
Small BG*, McColl BW*, Allmendinger R, Pahle J, Lopez-Castejon G, Rothwell NJ, Knowles J, Mendes P, Brough D, Kell DB (2011) Efficient discovery of anti-inflammatory small-molecule combinations using evolutionary computing. Nat Chem Biol 7:902-908 *authors contributed equally https://doi.org/10.1038/nchembio.689 PMID: 22020553
McColl BW, Allan SM, Rothwell NJ (2009) Systemic infection, inflammation and acute ischaemic stroke. Neuroscience 158: 1049-1061. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.08.019 PMID: 18789376
Information for students:
Willingness to discuss research projects with undergraduate and postgraduate students: YES - please click here