Host defense against intracellular pathogens, B cell responses, immunological memory
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Our research is focused on understanding how hosts defend themselves against pathogens. We have performed our studies primarily in mouse models of human infectious diseases, and have used these models to address basic questions regarding the immune response. A central question addressed by our work is how the vertebrate host generates a successful immune response to infections, and why that sometimes fails to happen. In particular, our work has emphasized the role of B cells and antibodies in host responses to intracellular bacterial pathogens. For example, we have studied that role of a type of antibody, known as IgM, and the particular B cells that generate these antibodies, during both acute and chronic infection by a rickettsiae of the genus ehrlichia. The ehrlichiae are tick-transmitted obligate intracellular bacterial pathogens, and have provided an excellent laboratory model for addressing fundamental immunological questions that are relevant to many infectious diseases. Recent work in this experimental model has led us to the identification of a large population of IgM memory B cells that are elicited during infection and that are responsible for recall responses to secondary antigen challenge. We plan to use this model to address questions regarding the genesis and maintenance of immunological memory during infection, a topic of fundamental importance for the field.
Although our studies have been devoted largely towards basic research, we also plan to place greater emphasis on the application of our research findings to the development of vaccines and therapies in humans. Here at SUNY Upstate we will extend our studies to other pathogens of global health importance, by studying host defense in humans. By elucidating how effective immune responses are generated, our work will contribute to the development of vaccines and therapies for infections caused by pathogens of public health importance.