Research Focus: My laboratory conducts research in the areas of cellular and molecular immunology, as well as investigating the association of human adenovirus with lymphocytes. Ongoing studies involve (1) the analysis of basic immunologic mechanisms and principles against self-cells from diverse tissues, (2) analysis of immune cell interactions with damaged or malignant cells, and (3) investigating the possibility that human species C adenovirus infections in lymphocytes can initiate acute leukemia.

Immunogenic modulation by radiation: One of the major research thrusts in our lab is to examine the effects of ionizing radiation on gene expression in diverse cells to gain further insights into the mechanistic link between irradiation and increased attack by immune cells. Research focuses on those factors that will enhance the activity of effector cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL), with emphasis on the effects of ionizing radiation on the immunogenicity of cells that survive radiation. Along these lines we are evaluating: 1) changes in the expression of genes within irradiated cells that modulate effector CTL behavior, 2) the molecular mechanisms of altered gene expression operating in cells surviving radiation, and 3) if immunogenic modulation is similar across cells from diverse tissues. Additional studies focus on modulation of factors occurring within irradiated cells that could activate or regulate other immune cells, such as regulatory T cells and dendritic cells. The laboratory performs investigative research with the goal of increasing our understanding of how attack of damaged and/or malignant self-cells is regulated. A better understanding of these basic immunology principles will impact the design of immunologic strategies for the treatment of cancer and other diseases.

Adenovirus infection of lymphocytes and leukemia: Research is focused on the study of human tumor viruses that persistently infect lymphocytes. Our previous studies evaluated the molecular characteristics of natural adenovirus infections in human lymphocytes, with emphasis on identifying lymphocyte cell populations in human tonsils and adenoids that harbor the common species C adenovirus DNA. In addition, the molecular dynamics of adenovirus persistence/latency in these naturally infected lymphocytes were examined by evaluating viral DNA replication, transcription, and protein expression. Current research is focused on gaining further insights into the relationship between prenatal adenovirus infection of lymphocytes and childhood leukemia. The goal is to characterize the latent or persistent phase of subgroup C adenovirus life cycle in humans and to reveal whether this virus contributes to some acute leukemia’s in children. If research can understand the mechanisms of latency in lymphocytes, this information can be used to target vaccines for the prevention of acute leukemia in children.

Check out this link to a video spotlight of my labs research.