Images from the spleen of our autoimmune prone tissue cells. All of the images are of germinal centers of the spleen.
Courtesy of C. Coquery, Erickson Laboratory.
Immunology is one of the most exciting and active areas in modern biology and it intersects with a wide array of other disciplines, including virology, bacteriology, and cancer biology. The scientific focus of the faculty members working in immunology range from basic lymphocyte development and regulation of the immune system to clinical trials, including: molecular aspects of B and T lymphocyte development, leukemia and lymphoma, innate immunity, regulation of immune response quality, lymphocyte trafficking, modulation of immunity to viruses and bacteria, how apoptotic cells are cleared from the body and the relevance of clearing dead cells to inflammation, tumor immunology and immunotherapy, allergic diseases, autoimmunity, neuroimmunology and immunological perturbations in cardiovascular disease.
Examples of projects currently being pursued by our investigators include: (a) Studies by Dr. Tim Bender will determine how the transcription factor c-Myb controls a broad array of developmental and functional programming in B and T lymphocytes, with relevance to hematopoietic malignancies; (b) Dr. Loren Erickson addresses the cellular and molecular mechanisms of B lymphocyte function, and genetic susceptibility to systemic lupus erythematosus and multiple myeloma; (c) Dr. Vic Engelhard identifies novel peptides on tumor cells and tests how specific antigenic peptides derived from the tumors can be used in immunotherapies; and (d) Studies by Dr. Ulrike Lorenz examine how a single tyrosine phosphatase can influence the function of conventional T cells (which promote the immune response) and regulatory T cells (which suppress the immune response).
The research in immunology uses cutting edge methodologies to probe a wide array of exciting questions. Dr. Kodi Ravichandran uses genetically engineered mice that delete or inducibly express a gene of interest (with a fluorescence tag) in a tissue specific and temporal manner to determine how phagocytes clear dying cells from a tissue. Dr. Young Hahn uses a complex set of in vitro and in vivo tools to track the Hepatitis C virus to determine how the virus evades the immune system. Research programs in immunology are supported by a state-of-the-art flow cytometry facility, transgenic/knockout mouse core facility, high through put DNA sequencing and bioinformatics cores, and a two-photon microscopy facility to assist the research of faculty members, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.
It is important to recognize that faculty who work in the area of immunology collaborate extensively with those who study microbial pathogenesis since how pathogens are recognized and cleared by the immune system are integral to understanding microbial disease and the resolution of the immune response. Similarly, several of the immunology faculty study tumors and how they are controlled by the immune system as well as devising new immune system based tumor therapies. Such interactions between the different arms of the MIC Department greatly broaden the scope of research being pursued as well as enrich the intellectual rigor and depth in addressing the key scientific problems.