Dr Simpson studies the effects of exercise and stress on the immune system. Major cross-cutting themes of his work are aging (immunosenescence), cancer and spaceflight. Specifically, Dr Simpson and his team study how single exercise bouts can be used to augment the recovery and expansion of specific immune cells that can be used therapeutically to treat patients with hematologic malignancies; and how exercise can be used to negate the onset of immunosenescence during natural aging. He is also interested in how exercise training can contribute to improved patient survival and quality of life through immune and inflammatory pathways at all phases of the cancer care continuum. His current work includes three NASA funded projects that aim to (i) examine the effects of long duration spaceflight on astronaut immune function and illness rates; (ii) characterize behavioral and psychiatric risks associated with extreme isolation and confinement (Co-Principal Investigator with Dr. Candice Alfano); and (iii) determine the effects of simulated microgravity and acute radiation exposure on viral infectivity and host immune evasion.
Recent Publications and Research Activity
Professional Memberships and Editorial Contributions
Dr. Simpson is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and a member of the International Society of Exercise and Immunology (ISEI) and the Psycheneuroimmunology Research Society (PNIRS). He has sat on study sections for the NIH (NIA/NIAID; special emphasis panel: Aging and Immunity) and currently serves on the ACSM Research Reviews Committee. Dr. Simpson is Associate Editor of Exercise Immunology Reviews and is on the editorial board of Inflammopharmacology and American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. He also served as Guest Editor for Brain, Behavior and Immunity (Special Issue: “Exercise Immunology in Health and Disease” in 2014) and has performed ad-hoc reviewer roles for over 30 journals in his field.
Selected Peer-reviewed Publications
Simpson, R.J. Kunz, H., Agha, N. & R. Graff (2015). Exercise and the regulation of immune functions. Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science, 135, 355-380.
Fiuza-Luces, C., Simpson, R.J., Ramirez, M., Lucia, A., & N.A. Berger (2015). Physical function and quality of life in patients with chronic GvHD: a summary of preclinical and clinical studies and a call for exercise intervention trials in patients. Bone Marrow Transplantation. doi: 10.1038/bmt.2015.195
Brown F.F., Bigley A.B., Ross J.S., LaVoy E.C., Simpson R.J., & S.D.R. Galloway (2015). The response of T-lymphocyte populations to a period of high volume training in female soccer players. Physiology and Behavior, 152, 175-181.
Bigley, A.B. & R.J. Simpson (2015). NK-cells and Exercise: Implications for cancer immunotherapy and survivorship. Discovery Medicine, 19, 433-445.
Bigley, A.B., Spielmann, G., Agha, N., & R.J. Simpson (2015). The effects of age and latent cytomegalovirus infection on NK-cell phenotype and exercise responsiveness in man. Oxidative Medicine & Cellular Longevity [Epub: Article ID 979645].
Simpson, R.J. (2015) Fitness deficits in long-term ALL survivors. Blood, 125, 3366-3368.
LaVoy, E.C., C.M. Bollard, P.J. Hanley, D.P. O’Connor, T.W. Lowder, J.A. Bosch & R.J. Simpson (2015). A single bout of dynamic exercise enhances the generation of monocyte-derived dendritic cells. Cellular Immunology, 295, 52-59.
Bigley, A.B. Rezvani, K., Pistillo, M., Reed, J., Kunz, H., Agha, N., Bollard, C.M. & R.J. Simpson (In Press). Acute exercise preferentially mobilizes NK-cells with a highly-differentiated phenotype and augments cytotoxicity against lymphoma and multiple myeloma target cells. Part II: Impact of latent cytomegalovirus infection and catecholamine sensitivity. Brain, Behavior and Immunity, doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2014
Ingram, L., R.J. Simpson, E. Malone & G. Florida-James (2015). Sleep disruption and its effect on lymphocyte redeployment following an acute bout of strenuous exercise. Brain, Behavior and Immunity, 47, 100-108.
LaVoy, E.C. C.M. Bollard, P.J. Hanley, J.W. Blaney, D.P. O’Connor J.A. Bosch & R.J. Simpson (2015). A single bout of dynamic exercise enhances the expansion of MAGE-A4 and PRAME-specific cytotoxic T-cells from healthy adults. Exercise Immunology Review, 21, 144-153.
Pollonini, L., Padhye, N., Re, R., Torricelli, A., Simpson, R.J. & C. Dacso (2015). Pulse transit time measured by photoplethysmography improves the accuracy of heart rate as a surrogate measure of cardiac output, stroke volume and oxygen uptake in response to graded exercise. Physiological Measurements, 36, 911-924
Fiuza-Luces, C., Garatachea, N., Simpson, R.J., Berger, N.A., Ramirez, M. & A. Lucia (2015) Understanding graft-versus-host disease: preliminary findings regarding the effects of exercise in affected patients. Exercise Immunology Review, 21, 80-112.
Kunz, H. Bishop, N.C., Spielmann, G., Pistillo, M., Reed, J., Ograjsek, T., Park, Y., Mehta, S., Pierson, D.L. & R.J. Simpson (2015) Fitness level impacts salivary antimicrobial responses to a single bout of cycling exercise. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 115, 1015-27
Simpson, R.J. and J.A. Bosch. (2014) Exercise immunology: perspectives on aging, health and extreme human performance. Brain, Behavior and Immunity, 39, 1-7. (editorial accompanying the special issue of the journal).
Spielmann, G. Bollard, C.M., Bigley, A.B., Hanley, P.J., Blaney, J.W., LaVoy, E.C., Pircher, H. & R.J. Simpson. (2014) The effects of age and latent cytomegalovirus infection on the redeployment of CD8+ T cell subsets in response to acute exercise in humans. Brain Behavior and Immunity, 39, 142-151.
Bigley, A.B., Rezvani, K., Chew, C., Sekine, T., Pistillo, M., Crucian, B., Bollard, C.M. and R.J. Simpson. (2014) Acute exercise preferentially mobilizes NK-cells with a highly-differentiated phenotype and augments cytotoxicity against lymphoma and multiple myeloma target cells. Brain, Behavior and Immunity, 39, 160-171.
Spielmann, G. Johnston, C.A., O’Connor, D.P., Foreyt, J.P. and R.J. Simpson. (2014) Excess body mass is associated with T-cell differentiation indicative of immune aging in children. Clinical and Experimental Immunology, 176, 246-254.
Crucian, B., Simpson, R.J., Mehta, S., Stowe, R., Chouker, A., Hwang, S., Actor, J.K., Salam, A.P., Pierson, D. and C. Sams. (2014) Terrestrial stress analogs for spaceflight associated immune system dysregulation. Brain, Behavior and Immunity, 39, 23-32.
Brown F.F., Bigley A.B., Sherry C., Neal C.M., Witard O.C., Simpson R.J. and Galloway S.D. (2014) Training status and sex influence on senescent T-lymphocyte redistribution in response to acute maximal exercise. Brain Behavior and Immunity, 39, 152-159.
LaVoy, E.C., Bigley, A.B., Spielmann, G., Rector, J.L., Morrison, M.R., O’Connor, D.P. and R.J. Simpson. (2014) CMV amplifies T-cell redeployment to acute exercise independently of HSV-1 serostatus. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 46, 257-267.
LaVoy, E.C., Nieman, D.C. Henson, D.A., Shanely, R.A., Knab, A.M., Cialdella-Kam, L. & R. J. Simpson. (2013) Latent cytomegalovirus infection does not alter innate immune function in response to a 75-km cycling time trial. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 113, 2629-2635.
Pistillo, M., Bigley, A.B., Spielmann, G., LaVoy, E.C., Morrison, M.R., Rahman, M. & R.J. Simpson. (2013) The effects of age and viral serology on gd T-cell numbers and exercise responsiveness in humans. Cellular Immunology, 284, 91-97.
Bigley, A.B., Spielmann, G., LaVoy, E.C. and R.J. Simpson. (2013) Can exercise-related improvements in immunity influence cancer incidence and prognosis in the elderly? Maturitas, 76, 51-56.
Mehta SK, Crucian BE, Stowe RP, Simpson RJ, Ott CM, Sams CF and Pierson DL. (2013) Reactivation of latent viruses is associated with increased plasma cytokines in astronauts. Cytokine, 61, 205-9.
Lavoy EC, Bosch JA, Lowder TW and Simpson RJ. (2013) Acute aerobic exercise in humans increases cytokine expression in CD27- but not CD27+ CD8+ T-cells. Brain, Behavior and Immunity, 27, 54-62.
Pollonini L, Re R, Simpson RJ, Dacso CC. (2012) Integrated device for the measurement of systemic and local oxygen transport during physical exercise. Engineering in Medical Biology Society, 37, 60-3.
Simpson, R.J., Lowder, T.W., Spielmann, G., Bigley, A.B., LaVoy, E.C. and Kunz, H. (2012) Exercise and the aging immune system. Ageing Research Reviews, 11, 404-20.
Bigley, A.B., Lowder, T.W., Spielmann, G., Rector, J. Pircher, H. and Simpson, R.J. (2012) NK-cells have an impaired response to acute exercise and a lower expression of the inhibitory receptors KLRG1 and CD158a in humans with latent cytomegalovirus infection. Brain, Behavior and Immunity, 26: 177-186.
Cosgrove C, Galloway SD, Neal C, Hunter AM, McFarlin BK, Spielmann G, and Simpson RJ. (2012) The impact of 6-month training preparation for an Ironman triathlon on the proportions of naive, memory and senescent T cells in resting blood. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 112, 2989-98.
LaVoy EC, McFarlin BK, Simpson RJ. (2011) Immune responses to exercising in a cold environment. Wilderness Environ Med, 22, 343-51.
Spielmann, G., McFarlin, B.K., O'Connor, D.P., Smith, P.J.W., Pircher, H. and Simpson, R.J. (2011) Aerobic fitness is associated with lower proportions of senescent blood T-cells in man. Brain, Behavior and Immunity, 25, 1521-9.
Simpson R.J. (2011) Aging, persistent viral infections and immunosenescence: can exercise "make space"? Exercise and Sports Science Reviews, 39, 23-33. (Invited Review).
Simpson, R.J., Cosgrove, C., Chee, M.M., McFarlin, B.K., Bartlett, D.B., Spielmann, G., O'Connor, D.P., Pircher, H and Shiels, P. (2010) Senescent phenotypes and telomere lengths of peripheral blood T-cells mobilized by acute exercise in humans. Exercise Immunology Review, 16, 40-55.
Booth, S., Florida-James, G.D., McFarlin, B.K., Spielmann, G., O'Connor, D.P. and Simpson, R.J. (2010) The impact of acute strenuous exercise on TLR2, TLR4 and HLA.DR expression on human blood monocytes induced by autologous serum. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 110, 1259-1268.
Simpson, R.J. and Guy, K. (2010) Coupling aging immunity with a sedentary lifestyle: has the damage already been done? - A mini review. Gerontology, 56, 449-458. (Invited Review)
Simpson RJ, Graham SM, Florida-James GD, Connaboy C, Clement R, Jackson AS. (2010) Perceived exertion and heart rate models for estimating metabolic workload in elite British soldiers performing a backpack load-carriage task. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab, 35, 650-6.
Simpson, R.J., McFarlin, B.K., McSporran, C., Spielmann, G., Hartaigh, B.O. and Guy, K. (2009) Toll-like receptor expression on classic and pro-inflammatory blood monocytes after acute exercise in humans. Brain, Behavior and Immunity, 23, 232-239.
Simpson, R.J., Cosgrove, C., Ingram, L.A., Florida-James, G.D., Whyte, G.P., Pircher, H. and Guy, K. (2008) Senescent T-lymphocytes are mobilised into the peripheral blood compartment in young and old humans after exhaustive exercise. Brain, Behavior and Immunity, 22, 544-551.
Campbell, J.P., Guy, K., Cosgrove, C., Florida-James, G.D. and Simpson, R.J. (2008) Total lymphocyte CD8 expression is not a reliable marker of cytotoxic T-cell populations in human peripheral blood following an acute bout of high-intensity exercise. Brain, Behavior and Immunity, 22, 375-380.
Simpson, R.J., Florida-James, G.D., Cosgrove, C., Whyte, G.P., Macrae, S., Pircher, H. and Guy, K. (2007) High-intensity exercise elicits the mobilization of senescent T-lymphocytes into the peripheral blood compartment in human subjects. Journal of Applied Physiology, 103, 396-401.
Simpson, R.J., Florida-James, G.D., Whyte, G.P., Middleton, N., Shave, R., George, K. and Guy, K. (2007) The effects of marathon running on expression of the complement regulatory proteins CD55 and CD59 on red blood cells, European Journal of Applied Physiology, 99, 201-204.
Simpson, R.J., Florida-James, G.D., Whyte, G.P., Black, J.R., Ross, J.A. and Guy, K. (2007) Apoptosis does not contribute to the blood lymphocytopenia observed after intensive and downhill treadmill running in humans. Research in Sports Medicine, 15, 157-174.
Simpson, R.J., Florida-James, G.D., Whyte, G.P. and Guy, K. (2006) The effects of intensive, moderate and downhill treadmill running on human blood lymphocytes expressing the adhesion/activation molecules CD54 (ICAM-1), CD18 (?2 integrin) and CD53. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 97, 109-121.
Simpson RJ, Gray SC, Florida-James GD. (2006) Physiological variables and performance markers of serving soldiers from two "elite" units of the British Army. J Sports Sci, 24, 597-604.
Simpson, R. J., M. R. Wilson, J. R. Black, J. A. Ross, G. P. Whyte, K. Guy & G. D. Florida-James (2005) Immune alterations, lipid peroxidation, and muscle damage following a hill race. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, 30, 196-211.
Published Book Chapters
Simpson, R.J. Kunz, H., Agha, N. & R. Graff (In Press) “Exercise and the regulation of immune function”. In: Progress in Molecular Biology Translational Science (PMBTS): Molecular and Cellular Regulation of Adaptation to Exercise (Editor: Bouchard, C), Elsevier, Oxford, UK.
Spielmann, G., Bigley, A.B., LaVoy, E.C. & R.J. Simpson (2013). “Aging Immunity and the Impact of Physical Exercise”. In: Immunology of Ageing. (Editors: Masoud, A. & Rezaei, N.) Springer, NY, USA.
Simpson, R.J. (2013) “Effects of Exercise on Blood Leukocyte Numbers”. In: Exercise Immunology (Editors: Gleeson, M. Bishop, N.C. and Walsh, N.) Routledge, Oxford, UK.
Simpson, R.J. (2012) "Immunosenescence". In: Encyclopedia of Exercise Medicine in Health and Disease. (Editor: Mooren, F.C.) Springer, NY, USA.
Simpson, R.J. & G. Spielmann (2012). Exercise and Immunosenescence. In: Immunosenescence: behavioural and psychosocial determinants. (Editors: Bosch, J.A., Phillips, A.C. and Lord J.M.) Springer, NY, USA.
Davison, G. & R.J. Simpson (2011). Immunity. In: Sport and Exercise Nutrition. (Editor: The Nutrition Society) Blackwell Publishing ltd., Cambridge, UK.
Ongoing Research Support
NASA NNJ10ZSA003N 10/01/2011-30/09/2016
“Effects of Long-Term Exposure to Microgravity on Salivary and Blood Markers of Innate Immunity” Role: PI
University of Houston Grants to Enhance and Advance Research (GEAR) 8/01/2014-7/31/2015
“The effects of exercise on the generation of multi-virus specific T-cells for adoptive transfer immunotherapy: Impact of adrenergic receptors” Role: PI
NASA NNJ13ZSA002N 05/01/2015-04/30/2018
“Characterization of Psychological Risk Overlap with Physical Health and Associated Performance in Isolated, Confined, Extreme (ICE) Environments” Role: Co-PI (with Candice Alfano)
NASA Human Research Program 10/01/2014-09/30/2018
“The ‘Exploration Atmosphere’ flight study on ISS: Assessment of immunity, oxidative stress, vision and cognition” Role: Co-I; PI of UH subaward (PI: Crucian)
ACSM Foundation Doctoral Student Research Grant 06/1/2015-5/31/2016
“Enhancing adenovirus specific immunity with exercise: role of adrenergic receptors” Role: Faculty Mentor (Student PI: Kunz)
NASA NNJ14ZSA001N-FLAGSHIP 12/01/2015-11/31/2017
“The impact of simulated microgravity and acute radiation exposure on cytomegalovirus reactivation and host immune evasion” Role: PI
NSBRI PF04307 Postdoctoral Research Fellowship 11/01/2015-10/31/2016
“The Role of Microgravity and Stress-Related Humoral Factors in Dysregulated NK-Cell Function During Spaceflight” Role: Faculty Mentor (Postdoctoral PI: Bigley)
Completed Research Support
Mission Connect, Texas Institute for Rehabilitation Research (TIRR) 04/01/2011-31/03/2012
“Immune and metabolic responses to FES cycling in patients with spinal cord injury” Role: Co-I (PI: Thrasher)
NASA Human Research Program 06/01/2009-05/31/2011
“Development of a Submaximal Cycling Protocol to Identify the Ventilatory Threshold in Astronauts” Role: PI
University of Houston New Faculty Research Support 01/03/2009-31/12/2009
“The Relationship between Obesity Severity and the Frequency of Senescent T-lymphocytes in Peripheral Blood” Role: PI
Institute for Space Systems Operations (ISSO) 01/06/2009-31/12/2009
“Validation of capillary blood collection as a means to monitor markers of immunity: application for crewmembers during long-duration space flight missions” Role: Co-PI (with Brian McFarlin)
Other Experience and Professional Memberships
2002-2014 Member, American College of Sports Medicine
2002-2008 Member, British Society for Immunology
2002- Member, International Society of Exercise and Immunology
2006- Managing Editor, Frontiers in Bioscience
2010-2012 Member, American Society of Immunologists
2010- Horizon Program - Zenith Project, ad-hoc grant reviewer
2011- Member, Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society (PNIRS)
2012-2014 Guest Editor, Brain, Behavior and Immunity. Special Issue: “Exercise Immunology in Health and Disease”
2013- Editorial Board Member, American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine
2013 NIAID/NIA Special Emphasis Review Panel: “Immunity and Aging”
2014- Editorial Board Member/Associate Editor, Exercise Immunology Reviews
2014- Editorial Board Member, Inflammopharmacology
2014- Member, ACSM Research Reviews Committee
2014- Fellow, American College of Sports Medicine
2015 Welcome Trust, ad-hoc grant reviewer
HND Fitness, Health and Exercise at Central College of Commerce, Glasgow, Scotland, UK, 1998
B.S. in Sport and Exercise Science (1st class) at Napier University, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, 2002
Ph.D. in Exercise Immunology at Napier University, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, 2005