Immunology and Immunodeficiency Lab
Our focus is on understanding the development and function of particular types of white blood cells: the cells of the immune system that protect us against infectious diseases and are responsible for the success of vaccination strategies.
Specifically, we study the cellular and molecular biology of B cells, which produce antibodies; specialised population ‘helper’ T cells that activate antibody production in B cells, as well as protect against infection with specific microbes; and ‘cytotoxic’ T cells, which are responsible for recognising and killing virus-infected or malignant cells. We are particularly interested in understanding how the immune system responds to natural infections or vaccinations, which create a ‘memory’ of the response so that following subsequent exposure to the same infectious agent, the immune system reacts more rapidly, robustly and efficiently to prevent disease and keep us healthy.
Our lab’s goal is to determine how genetic defects in B cells and T cells – termed inborn errors of immunity – underlie the development and clinical features of human primary immunodeficiencies and immune dysregulatory conditions. To achieve this, we study lymphocyte development, signalling, differentiation and effector function in patients with diseases resulting from monogenic loss-of-function, gain-of function, haploinsufficient or dominant negative mutations in key regulators of immune responses.
Over the past few years, our discoveries have provided significant insight into the requirements for the development, differentiation and function of human lymphocytes, and how these processes are compromised in immune deficiencies. These findings have revealed how and why affected patients develop specific clinical features of these diseases, and have identified potential pathways to improve diagnosis, treatment and management of these rare conditions for patients and their families. We work closely with the Human Immune Disorders Lab to conduct this research.
Overall, we hope to identify ways of improving the immune response in individuals with immunodeficiencies in the settings of natural infection or vaccination and strategies to attenuate the immune system of patients with overactive autoimmune or allergic diseases.