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Alena’s research focuses on studying whether there is a direct link between the epigenetic ageing in T cells and the loss of function of these cells with age. In particular, Alena aims to identify the signature epigenetic changes occurring in ageing T cells and see if we can rejuvenate their function by reversing their epigenetic age. They have built unique mouse strains that allow us to use CrispR technology to edit the epigenetics of cells. This technology can be used to take old T cells, modify their epigenetics to look like young T cells, and then test their function. If the old T cells regain function and act like young T cells, it means that functional decline in age is due to the epigenetic clock in the immune system. On the other hand, if the old T cells remain poorly functional, even with the epigenetics of young T cells, it means that the functional decline and epigenetic clock are not directly connected. This work has the potential for unlocking the rejuvenation of the immune system – a major cause of illness and death in the elderly population.

Alena works as a postdoctoral researcher at the Babraham Institute at the Department of Lymphocyte Signalling and Development.