Department: Comparative Biomedical Sciences

Campus: Camden

Research Groups: CPCS (Research Programme)

Donald is an Associate Professor of Immunology in Comparative Biomedical Sciences. His main research interests are immunosenesence, particularly with regards to age-associated thymic involution. He is also interested in the use of antibody phage display technology to identify novel markers on stem cells and cancer cells.

Donald is an Associate Professor of Immunology. He did his undergraduate studies (Medical Sciences) at Bradford University, his postgraduate studies (MSc in Immunology) at King's College London and obtained his PhD which involved investigating the genetic regulation of Beta-2-microglobulin in the Division of Transplantation Biology, MRC Clinical Science Centre, Northwick Park Hospital.

This was followed by a post doctoral position at Cancer Research UK, looking at lymphocyte development in transgenic and mutant mice in the laboratory of Dr Mick Owen. Donald undertook another post doctoral position at Imperial College in the laboratory of Professor Mary Ritter, again working in the area of lymphocyte development, but in the context of the microenvironment. Donald successfully obtained an MRC Career Development Award and became a Research Lecturer at Imperial College London. During this award he used antibody phage display technology to study cellular interactions in the thymus and investigated intrathymic neuroendocrine communications. He joined the RVC in 2002.

Donald is currently a member of the British Society for Immunology (BSI), was Secretary of the London Immunology Group (a Regional Group of the BSI; 2002-2007) and previously a board member of the BSI council. He is currently on the Editorial Advisory Board for Immunology News. He is also a member of the British Society for Research on Ageing.

Donald is currently a  Honorary Senior Lecturer at Imperial College, London

Donald’s main area of research is focused on investigating the cellular and molecular interactions involved in T cell development and in particularly understanding the processes that are involved in age-associated thymic involution and immunosenescence.

He has used antibody phage display technology to identify cell surface structures expressed on thymic epithelium that are involved in stromal cell-thymocyte interaction; which is still an ongoing project. Furthermore, in a collaborative project he has used this technology to identify cell surface structures on tumours. Cross-talk between the immune, endocrine and nervous systems involve common neuroendocrine circuits and Dr Palmer’s work has demonstrated the expression of several neuropeptides and their receptors in the thymus of different species and showed that these peptides can directly modulate thymocyte differentiation.

These studies led Dr Palmer to pursue an interest in understanding how ageing affected the immune system, in particular the mechanisms involved in age-related thymic atrophy. He’s group have been investigating the architectural changes in the ageing thymus, and made the novel finding of the presence of senescent cells in the thymus of older animals (in collaboration with Professor Thomas von Zglinicki, Institute of  Ageing and Health, University of Newcastle). In addition to these observations, examination of thymocytes also revealed age-related alterations in phenotype and function. Dr Palmer has extended his interest on the affect of ageing on other components of the immune system and is examining Natural Killer cell function in the elderly (in collaboration with Prof Arne Akbar and Dr Sian Henson, UCL).

He also has an interest in comparative immunology and is currently examining the thymic architecture and function in different species.

Listen to my Research Podcast : Podcasts/RVC_Podcast_19.m4a



PALMER, D.B. (2018) Nutritional Programming Effects on the Immune System. Methods Mol Biol. 1735:311-319. Pubmed/29380323

HOLDER, A., JONES, G., SOUTTER, F., PALMER, D.B., ASPINALL, R. AND CATCHPOLE, B. (2018) Polymorphisms in the canine IL7R 3'UTR are associated with thymic output in Labrador retriever dogs and influence post-transcriptional regulation by microRNA 185. Dev Comp Immunol. 81:244-251. Pubmed/29247721

HOLDER, A., MIRCZUK, S.M., FOWKES, R.C., PALMER, D.B., ASPINALL, R. AND CATCHPOLE, B. (2018) Perturbation of the T cell receptor repertoire occurs with increasing age in dogs. Dev Comp Immunol. 79:150-157. Pubmed/29103899

MASTERS, A.R., HAYNES, L., SU, D-M. AND PALMER, D.B. (2017)  Immune senescence: Significance of the stromal microenvironment. Clin Exp Immunol. 187:6-15. Pubmed/27529161

HOLDER, A., MELLA, S., PALMER, D.B., ASPINALL, R. AND CATCHPOLE, B. (2016) An Age-Associated Decline in Thymic Output Differs in Dog Breeds According to Their Longevity. PLoS One 11(11):e0165968. Pubmed/27824893

HEPPOLETTE, C.A.A., CHEN, J-H., BARNES, S., PALMER, D.B. AND OZANNE, S.E. (2016) Maternal protein restriction leading to slow growth during lactation delays thymic involution and peripheral immunosenescence in adult mice. Oncotarget 7(6):6398-409. Pubmed/26843625

AW, D., HILLIARD, L., NISHIKAWA, Y., CADMEN, E., LAWRENCE, R. AND PALMER, D.B (2016) Disorganisation of the splenic microanatomy in ageing mice. Immunology 148:92-101. Pubmed/26840375

FERREIRA, C., PALMER, D., BLAKE, K., HOWLETT, S., WICKER, L.S., GARDEN, O.A. AND DYSON, P.J. (2014) Reduced regulatory T cell diversity in NOD mice is linked to early events in the thymus. J Immunol. 192:4145-52. Pubmed/24663675

SU, D.M., AW, D. AND PALMER, D.B. (2013) Immunosenescence: A product of the environment? Curr Opin Immunol. 25:498-503. Pubmed/23809359

PALMER, D.B. (2013) The effect of age on thymic function. Front. Immunol. 4:316. doi:10.3389/fimmu. Pubmed/24109481

POULET, B., VERONICA ULIC, V., STONE, T.C., PEAD, M., GBURCIK, V., CONSTANTINOU, E., PALMER, D.B., BEIER, F., JAMES A. TIMMONS. J.A. AND PITSILLIDES, A.A. (2012) Time-series transcriptional profiling yields new perspectives on susceptibility to osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 64:3256-66. Pubmed/22833266

AW, D. AND PALMER, D.B. (2012) It's not all equal: A multiphasic theory of thymic involution. Biogerontology 13:77-81. Pubmed/21773717

AW, D. & PALMER, D. B. (2011) The Origin and Implication of Thymic Involution. Aging & Disease 2:436-443. PDF

SILVA, A. B. & PALMER, D. B. (2011) Evidence of conserved neuroendocrine interactions in the thymus: intrathymic expression of neuropeptides in mammalian and non-mammalian vertebrates. Neuroimmunomodulation. 18:264-70. Pubmed ID 21952678

AW, D. & PALMER, D. B. (2011) It's not all equal: a multiphasic theory of thymic involution. Biogerontology. 2011 Jul 20. [Epub ahead of print] Pubmed ID 21773717

HAYHOE, R. P. G., HENSON, S. M., AKBAR, A. N. & PALMER, D. B. (2010) Variation of human natural killer cell phenotypes with age: identification of a unique KLRG1 negative subset. Hum Immunol 71:676-681. Pubmed ID 20394788

SMITH, I. A., KNEZEVIC, B. R., AMMANN, J. U., RHODES, D. A., AW, D., PALMER, D. B, MATHER, I. H. & TROWSDALE, J. (2010) BTN1A1, the mammary gland butyrophilin, and BTN2A2 are both inhibitors of T cell activation. J Immunol 184:3514-3525. Pubmed ID 20208008

CHEN, J. H., TARRY-ADKINS, J. L., HEPPOLETTE, C. A., PALMER, D. B. & OZANNE, S. E. (2010) Early-life nutrition influences thymic growth in male mice that may be related to the regulation of longevity. Clin Sci 118:429-438. Pubmed ID 19874273

SILVA, A. B., AW, D. & PALMER, D. B. (2010) The effect of age on the phenotype and function of developing thymocytes. J Comp Path 142:S1, S45-S59. Pubmed ID 20003987

SHANLEY, D. P., AW, D., MANLEY, N. R. & PALMER, D. B. (2009) An evolutionary perspective on the mechanisms of immunosenesence. Trends Immunol. 30:374-381.  Pubmed ID 19541538

SILVA, A. B., AW, D. & PALMER, D. B. (2009) Is thymocyte development functional in the aged? Aging 1:145-153. Pubmed ID 20157506

SILVA, A. B., AW, D. & PALMER, D. B. (2009) Neuropeptides and thymic hormones in the Xenopus thymus. Front Biosci 14:1990-2003. Pubmed ID 19273180

AW, D., TAYLOR-BROWN, F., COOPER, K. & PALMER, D. B. (2009) Phenotypical and morphological changes in the thymic microenvironment in ageing mice. Biogerontology 10:311-322. Pubmed ID 18931936

SILVA, A. B., AW, D. & PALMER, D. B. (2008) Functional analysis of neuropeptides in avian thymocyte development. Dev Comp Immunol 32, 410-420. PubMed ID 17892898

AW, D., SILVA, A. B., MADDICK, M., VON ZGLINICKI, T. & PALMER, D. B. (2008) Architectural changes in the thymus of aging mice. Aging Cell 7, 158-167. PubMed ID 18241323

AW, D., SILVA, A. B. & PALMER, D. B. (2007) Immunosenescence: emerging challenges for an ageing population. Immunology 120, 435-446. PubMed ID 17313487

TAAMS, L. S., PALMER, D. B., AKBAR, A. N., ROBINSON, D. S., BROWN, Z. & HAWRYLOWICZ, C. M. (2006) Regulatory T cells in human disease and their potential for therapeutic manipulation. Immunology 118, 1-9. PubMed ID 16630018

SILVA, A. B., AW, D. & PALMER, D. B. (2006) Evolutionary conservation of neuropeptide expression in the thymus of different species. Immunology 118, 131-140. PubMed ID 16630030

MORRISON, J., PALMER, D. B., COBBOLD, S., PARTRIDGE, T. & BOU-GHARIOS, G. (2005) Effects of T-lymphocyte depletion on muscle fibrosis in the mdx mouse. Am J Pathol 166, 1701-1710. PubMed ID 15920155

DE LORENZO, C., ARCIELLO, A., COZZOLINO, R., PALMER, D. B., LACCETTI, P., PICCOLI, R. & D'ALESSIO, G. (2004) A fully human antitumor immunoRNase selective for ErbB-2-positive carcinomas. Cancer Res 64, 4870-4874. PubMed ID 15256457

SOLOMOU, K., RITTER, M. A. & PALMER, D. B. (2002) Somatostatin is expressed in the murine thymus and enhances thymocyte development. Eur J Immunol 32, 1550-1559. PubMed ID 12115637

GRAF, D., NETHISINGHE, S., PALMER, D. B., FISHER, A. G. & MERKENSCHLAGER, M. (2002) The developmentally regulated expression of Twisted gastrulation reveals a role for bone morphogenetic proteins in the control of T cell development. J Exp Med 196, 163-171. PubMed ID 12119341

DE LORENZO, C., PALMER, D. B., PICCOLI, R., RITTER, M. A. & D'ALESSIO, G. (2002) A new human antitumor immunoreagent specific for ErbB2. Clin Cancer Res 8, 1710-1719. PubMed ID 12060608

BLACKBURN, C. C., MANLEY, N. R., PALMER, D. B., BOYD, R. L., ANDERSON, G. & RITTER, M. A. (2002) One for all and all for one: thymic epithelial stem cells and regeneration. Trends Immunol 23, 391-395. PubMed ID 12133801

AYTON, P., SNEDDON, S. F., PALMER, D. B., ROSEWELL, I. R., OWEN, M. J., YOUNG, B., PRESLEY, R. & SUBRAMANIAN, V. (2001) Truncation of the Mll gene in exon 5 by gene targeting leads to early preimplantation lethality of homozygous embryos. Genesis 30, 201-212. PubMed ID 11536426

RITTER, M. A. & PALMER, D. B. (1999) The human thymic microenvironment: new approaches to functional analysis. Semin Immunol 11, 13-21. PubMed ID 9950749

PALMER, D. B. & LECHLER, R. (1999) Can the thymus be a useful tool to induce specific tolerance to xenoantigens? Transplantation 68, 1628-1630. PubMed ID 10609936

PALMER, D. B., CROMPTON, T., MARANDI, M. B., GEORGE, A. J. & RITTER, M. A. (1999) Intrathymic function of the human cortical epithelial cell surface antigen gp200-MR6: single-chain antibodies to evolutionarily conserved determinants disrupt mouse thymus development. Immunology 96, 236-245. PubMed ID 10233701

PALMER, D. B., MCVEY, J. H., PUROHIT, R., PICARD, J. & DYSON, P. J. (1998) Characterization of a recent retroposon insertion on mouse chromosome 2 and localization of the cognate parental gene to chromosome 11. Mamm Genome 9, 103-106. PubMed ID 9457668

MCKAY, P. F., IMAMI, N., JOHNS, M., TAYLOR-FISHWICK, D. A., SEDIBANE, L. M., TOTTY, N. F., HSUAN, J. J., PALMER, D. B., GEORGE, A. J., FOXWELL, B. M. & RITTER, M. A. (1998) The gp200-MR6 molecule which is functionally associated with the IL-4 receptor modulates B cell phenotype and is a novel member of the human macrophage mannose receptor family. Eur J Immunol 28, 4071-4083. PubMed ID 9862343

PALMER, D. B., GEORGE, A. J. & RITTER, M. A. (1997) Selection of antibodies to cell surface determinants on mouse thymic epithelial cells using a phage display library. Immunology 91, 473-478. PubMed ID 9301539

VINEY, J. L., PROSSER, H. M., PALMER, D. B., LIPOLDOVA, M., LAMB, J. R. & OWEN, M. J. (1993) Analysis of T cell repertoire and function in mice transgenic for the human V beta 3 TCR. Int Immunol 5, 1541-1549. PubMed ID 8312224

PALMER, D. B., VINEY, J. L., RITTER, M. A., HAYDAY, A. C. & OWEN, M. J. (1993) Expression of the alpha beta T-cell receptor is necessary for the generation of the thymic medulla. Dev Immunol 3, 175-179. PubMed ID 8281032

PALMER, D. B., HAYDAY, A. & OWEN, M. J. (1993) Is TCR beta expression an essential event in early thymocyte development? Immunol Today 14, 460-462. PubMed ID 8216724

PALMER, D. B., MCVEY, J. H., ROBINSON, P. J. & DYSON, P. J. (1992) The chromatin structure of the mouse beta-2-microglobulin locus. Differentiation 51, 201-207. PubMed ID 1459361

Donald teaches on the BSc in Bioveterinary Sciences, BVetMed  and Gateway to BVetMed programmes.

He is currently First Year Leader for BSc/MSci Biological Sciences and Bioveterinary Sciences Programmes, Deputy Senior Tutor (Camden Campus) and Deputy Strand Leader for Lymphoreticular & Haemopoietic’ Strand (2nd Yr BVetMed).

Primarily, he teaches Immunology and Cellular Biology on these programmes.

Additionally, Donald teaches on the MSc in Immunology at Imperial College, BSc in Biological Sciences at UEL, Pathology Module in the Natural Science Tripos (Year 3) at University of Cambridge and the Infection & Immunity option in the third year undergraduate medical course at Oxford University.

He is a Registered Practitioner of The Higher Education Academy, having successfully completed a Postgraduate College Certificate in Academic Practice at King’s College London, and is currently the Higher Education Academy Biosciences Representative for the RVC.

Donald was previously External Examiner for BSc Biological Sciences at University of Bedfordshire (2012-2017) and currently an External Examiner for BSc Biomedical Science (Y1 and Y2) at St George's University of London (2016-2020) and Part IB Pathology course for Y2 undergraduate students at Cambridge University (2019-2021).

Donald is  passionate about increasing scientific awareness amongst the general public and fellow scientist, and also to encourage young people to consider a career in science by regularly contributing to public engagement activities; speaking at schools, colleges, community events and scientific festivals.  He has often provided comments in the area of immunology to various media outlets. Donald has  developed and teaches on a Biology Masterclass for year 12/13 pupils which consist of ‘a day at university’ involving lectures, a practical together with guidance on university application; as part of the college’s widening participation activity. Donald is a mentor and role model for various organisations and Chair of Govenors of a school in North London .

Watch my videos: Inspiring Scientists, Diversity in British Science. A study commissioned by the Royal Society:

Biology: Changing the World which celebrates the great biologists of the past. A Project developed by Royal Society of Biology, in partnership with BBSRC, and with funding from Heritage Lottery:

Educational video for the British Society for Immunology discussing the interactions between the immune system and invading pathogens:


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