Dr Niharika Duggal

Dr Niharika Duggal

Institute of Inflammation and Ageing
Assistant Professor in Immunity and Ageing

Contact details

Institute of Inflammation and Ageing
University of Birmingham Research Labs
Queen Elizabeth Hospital
Mindelsohn Way
B15 2WB

Dr Niharika Duggal is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham and a trustee for the British Society of Research in Ageing (BSRA) with a long-standing interest in the field of immunesenescence and its impact upon ageing and health.

Her research group is focused on understanding the underlying mechanisms involved in immunesenescene and investigating the role of immunesenescence as a contributor to pathological conditions that affect older adults with a higher incidence than the young, such as rheumatoid arthritis, C.difficile infections (CDI) and more recently COVID-19 infections. Niharika's research also focuses on investigating the role of microbiome changes in driving immunesenescence and has received a Springboard Award from the Academy of Medical Sciences to investigate the potential of microbiome-based interventions in reversing the immune ageing clock to promote healthy ageing.


  • Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education – University of Birmingham 2021
  • PhD in Immunology: University of Birmingham 2014
  • BSc (Hons) in Biological Sciences: University of Birmingham 2009


Niharika graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2009 with a BSc (Hons) in Biological Sciences. She joined Professor Janet Lord’s lab for her PhD undertaking a project investigating the effects of chronic stress (hip fracture and depression) on the ageing of the immune system. Since completing her doctorate she remained at Birmingham exploring the potential of lifelong physical activity to reverse the immune ageing clock and in 2017 she was awarded the Korenchevsky award by the British Society for Research in Ageing for this work. 

In 2019, she was appointed as a Lecturer in the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing. Her research focuses on exploring the links between immunesenescence and increased risk of autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and the role of regulatory B cells. In addition she has also developed an interest in investigating the contribution of immunesenescence in onset of other pathological conditions, such as C. difficile infections (CDI) and the role of Faecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT) as a potential intervention in these patients.

Other areas of research interest include sarcopenia and frailty and the development of multi-morbidity. More recently she has carried out research into the impact of critical injury and trauma on the rate of immunological ageing with the aim to develop biomarkers for patient stratification and development of new therapies to improve outcomes after injury.



  • BSc BioMedical Science – Academic Lead for Year 3 Module ‘ Biology of Ageing’
  • Year 3 Modules; Immunity and Inflammatory Diseases and Experimental Immunology
  • Academic mentor for Year 3 Module 'Global Challenges'
  • BSc BioMedical Science Year 2 – 'Immunity and Infection'
  • BSc BioMedical Science Academic Lead Year 2 – ‘Student Science Selected Project'
  • MBChB Year 2 – Academic lead for ‘Personal Interest Project: Ageing of the immune system’


Postgraduate supervision

Niharika currently supervises doctoral researchers working on the following projects:

  • Gut microbiome dysbiosis and immunesenescence: investigating associations and potential beneficial effects of physical activity
  • Investigating the impact of local anaesthesia on systemic inflammation and immune modulation

For researchers who are considering undertaking a PhD and have secured funding, please apply via the Find a PhD website.


Research themes 

  • Investigating the role of immunesenescence as a contributor to the age associated increased risk of chronic inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) , C. difficile infections (CDI) and COVID-19 infections.
  • Understanding the impact of age associated changes in the gut microbiome in driving immunesenescence and determining vaccine responses.
  • Investigating the potential of microbiome based interventions ( such as Faecal Microbiota Transplantation ) and lifelong exercise in reversing the immune ageing clock.

Other activities

Board of Trustees

Editorial Board

Research Networks

  • Early Career Researcher (ECR) Lead for the Food4Years Ageing Network 
  • Scientific Advisor for the Translational Innovation Hub for Population Health using Food and Nutrition approaches to enhance Positive Physiology (RIPEN) Hub

Committee Membership


  • Springboard Award – Academy of Medical Sciences , 2020
  • Korenchevsky Award – British society of Research in Ageing , 2017


Recent publications

  1. Meng G, Monaghan TM, Duggal NA, Tighe P, Peerani F (2023) Microbial-immune crosstalk in elderly-onset Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: Unchartered Territory. J Crohn’s Colitis. https://doi.org/10.1093/ecco-jcc/jjad025
  2. Clegg M, Methven L, Lanham-Nue S, Green M, Duggal NA, Hetherington (2023). The Food4Years Ageing Network: Improving foods and diets as a strategy for supporting quality of life, independence, and health-span in older adults. Nutrition Bulletin.
  3. Dugan B, Conway J, Duggal NA (2023) Inflammaging as a target for healthy Ageing. Age and Ageing 52:afac328 https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afac328
  4. Almeida H M, Sardeli AV, Conway J, Duggal NA,Cavagleiri CR (2022) Comparison between frail and non-frail older adults gut microbiota: a systemic review and meta-analysis. Ageing Res Rev 82:101773. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.arr.2022.101773
  5. Foster MA, Bentley C, Hazeldine J, Acharjee A, Nahman O, Shenn-Orr SS, Lord JM, Duggal NA (2022) Accelerated immunesenescence and clinical outcome in severely injured patients. Immunity and Ageing 19:60 https://doi.org/10.1186/s12979-022-00317-5
  6. Taylor JA, Greenhaff PA, Bartlett DB, Jackson TA, Duggal NA, Lord JM (2022) Multisystem physiological perspective of human frailty and its modulation by physical activity. Physiol Rev 103:1137-1191. https://doi.org/10.1152/physrev.00037.2021
  7. Veenith T, Martin H, Le Breuilly , Whitehouse T, Gao-Smith F, Duggal NA , Lord J M , Mian R, Moss P (2022) High generation of reactive oxygen species from neutrophils in patients with severe COVID-19.Scientific reports 12:10484. 
  8. Monaghan TM, Duggal NA*, Rosati E, Griffin R, Hughes J, Roach B, Yang DY, Wang C, Wong K, Saxinger L, Pucic-Bakovic M, Vuckovic F, Klicek F, Lauc G, Tighe P, Mullish BH, Miguens Blanco J, McDonald JAK, Marchesi JR, Xue N, Dottorinin T, Acharjee A, Franke A, Li Y, Ka-Shu Wong G, Polytarchou C, Yau TO , Christodoulou N, Hatziapostolou M, Wang M , Russell LA , Kao D H (2021) A multi-factorial observational study on sequential fecal microbiota transplant in patients with medical refractory Clostridiodes difficile infection. Cells 10:3234. (*joint first author).
  9. J Conway, M Certo, J M Lord, C Mauro and Duggal NA (2021) Understanding the role of host metabolites in the induction of immunesenescence; future strategies for keeping the ageing population healthy. British Journal Pharmacology.
  10. J Conway and Duggal NA (2021) Ageing of the microbiome: potential influences on immunesenenscence and inflammaging. Ageing Research Review.
  11. Tomic A , Tomic I , Waldron L , Geistlinger L , Kuhn M , Spreng RL , Dahora LC , Seaton KE , Tomaras G , Hill J , Duggal NA, Pollock RD , Lazarus NR, Harridge SDR , Lord JM , Khatri P , Pollard AJ , Davis MM (2021). SIMON: Open source knowledge discovery platform. Patterns 2: 100178
  12. Bartlett D.B and Duggal NA (2020) Moderate physical activity associated with increased naïve:memory T cell ratio in healthy old; potential role of IL15. Age and Ageing 49(3):368-373.
  13. Duggal NA, Niemiro G, Harridge SDR, Simpson RJ, Lord JM. (2019) Can physical activity ameliorate immunosenescence and thereby reduce age-related multi-morbidity? Nat Rev Immunol 19(9):563-572.
  14. Duggal NA (2018) Reversing the immune ageing clock: lifestyle modifications and pharmacological interventions. Biogerontology 19(6):481-496. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30269199
  15. Duggal NA, Snelson C, Shaheen U, Pearce V, Lord JM (2018) Innate and adaptive immune dysregulation in critically ill ICU patients. Sci Rep.8:10186. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29976949
  16. Fuggle NR, Westbury LD, Syddall HE, Duggal NA, Shaw SC, Maslin K, Dennison EM, Lord J, Cooper C (2018) Relationships between markers of inflammation and bone density: findings from the Hertfordshire Cohort Study. Osteoporos Int. 29:1581-1589.
  17. Pollock RD, O'Brien KA, Daniels LJ, Nielsen KB, Rowlerson A, Duggal NA, Lazarus NR, Lord JM, Philp A, Harridge SDR (2018) Properties of the vastus lateralis muscle in relation to age and physiological function in master cyclists aged 55-79 years. Aging Cell 17:2.
  18. Duggal NA, Pollock RD, Lazarus NR, Harridge S, Lord JM (2018) Major features of immunesenescence, including reduced thymic output, are ameliorated by high levels of physical activity in adulthood. Aging Cell 17:2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29517845
  19. Pollock RD, Duggal NA, Lazarus NR, Lord JM, Harridge SDR (2018) Cardiorespiratory fitness not sedentary time or physical activity is associated with cardiometabolic risk in active older adults. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 28:1653-1660
  20. Westbury LD, Fuggle NR, Syddall HE, Duggal NA, Shaw SC, Maslin K, Dennison EM, Lord JM, Cooper C.(2018) Relationships Between Markers of Inflammation and Muscle Mass, Strength and Function: Findings from the Hertfordshire Cohort Study.Calcif Tissue Int 102:287-295.
  21. Hazeldine J, Naumann DN, Toman E, Davies D, Bishop JRB, Su Z, Hampson P, Dinsdale RJ, Crombie N, Duggal NA, Harrison P, Belli A, Lord JM (2017). Prehospital immune responses and development of multiple organ dysfunction syndrome following traumatic injury: A prospective cohort study. PLoS Med.18:14
  22. Vitlic A, Lord JM, Taylor AE, Arlt W, Bartlett DB, Rossi A, Arora-Duggal N, Welham A, Heald M, Oliver C, Carroll D, Phillips AC (2016). Neutrophil function in young and old caregivers.Br J Health Psychol.21:173-89.
  23. Duggal NA, Upton J, Phillips AC, Lord JM (2016). Development of depressive symptoms post hip fracture is associated with altered immunosuppressive phenotype in regulatory T and B lymphocytes.Biogerontol. 17:229-39.
  24. Duggal NA, Upton J, Phillips AC, Hampson P, Lord JM (2015) NK cell immunesenescence is increased by psychological but not physical stress in older adults associated with raised cortisol and reduced perforin expression.Age.37:9748.
  25. Pollock RD, Carter S, Velloso CP, Duggal NA, Lord JM, Lazarus NR, Harridge SR (2015) An investigation into the relationship between age and physiological function in highly active older adults. J Physiol. 593:657-80.
  26. Duggal NA, Upton JA, Phillips AC, Hampson P, Lord JM (2014) Depressive symptoms post hip fracture are associated with phenotypic and functional alterations in T cells. Immunity Ageing 11:25.
  27. Duggal NA, Beswetherick A, Upton J, Hampson P, Phillips AC, Lord JM (2014) Depressive symptoms in hip fracture patients are associated with reduced monocyte superoxide production, Exp Gerontol 54:27-34.
  28. Phillips AC, Upton JA, Duggal NA, Carroll D, Lord JM (2013). New onset depression following hip fracture is associated with increased physical frailty in older adults: the role of the cortisol: dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate ratio. BMC Geriatrics 13:60.
  29. Duggal NA, Upton JA, Phillips AC, Hampson P, Lord JM (2013). Depressive symptoms are associated with reduced neutrophil superoxide generation in hip fracture patients. Brain Behavior Immunity 33:173-182.
  30. Duggal NA, Upton JA, Phillips AC, Sapey E, Lord JM (2013). An age-related numerical and functional deficit in CD19+CD24hiCD38hi B cells is associated with an increase in systemic autoimmunity. Aging Cell 12:873-881.

Book Chapters

  1. Duggal NA (2023) Immunology: features of immunesenescence. Springer.
  2. Conway J, Rees-Paddison N, Duggal NA (2022) Ageing of the gut microbiome and its potential contribution towards immunesenescence and inflammaging. Springer.
  3. Duggal NA, Upton J, Phillips A, Lord JM (2017) Stress and immunosenescence: a tale of two hormones. Wiley and Blackwell.
  4. Duggal NA and Lord JM (2013) Introduction to ageing of the innate immune system. Springer
  5. AC Whittaker, J Upton, Duggal NA, Deb C, Randhawa C, Lord JM (2016) Understanding immunesenescence. The New Dynamics of Ageing:Volume 2, 107-130.
  6. Duggal NA and Lord JM (2013) Introduction to ageing of the innate immune system. Springer.

View all publications in research portal