Immunology

Overall mission
The immune system of the human body is exquisitely structured in a way that protects it against pathogens by building innate and adaptive immune responses as guardian for health; and yet it may aggravate the viability and function of bystander cells by excessive activity and become an active element in disease pathogenesis.  Our overall research is to understand the fundamental nature of immune physiology with ultimate goals of manipulating immunity effectors in various disease manifestations.  We aim to translate bench-based findings into the clinic via establishing a multifaceted research project by collaborating with colleagues and making use of state-of-the-art technological tools.  In addition, the research curriculum in our section will provide a means for academic instruction for undergraduate/graduate students and fellows to bridge basic sciences and translational research.

One aspect in our section is to study the immune responses elicited by Pseudomonas aeruginosa and other pathogenic bacteria in infectious diseases.  Studies by plant molecular biologists in our department reveal the fundamental regulation for seed development, which is translated to nutritional immunology.  Work is underway to investigate the effects of dietary soypeptide on the immune cells, particularly natural killer (NK) cells, and the potential application to enhancing anti-tumor and anti-viral immunity as well as modulating allergic inflammation.  Studies on extracellular matrix are defining the role of type VI collagen (COL6) on macrophage-mediated inflammation particularly in the lung.

Specific Projects:
Nutritional immunology

Using the natural dietary soypeptide for harnessing the activity of NK cells, the projects are as follows:

Tumor immunology:

  • Enhancement of immunosurveillance for preemptive strategies
  • Harnessing immunotherapy for potential therapeutic regimens
  • Manipulating NK cells for potential cellular therapy following adoptive transfer

Anti-viral immunity: 
Enhancement of NK-mediated defense mechanism against viral infection using vaccinia model system

Anti-allergic inflammation:
Thwart Th2-mediated allergic inflammation by IFNg-producing NK cells to mitigate allergen-induced allergic diseases

NK cell biology:
Define the epigenetic regulation in NK cells by this soybean peptide

Type VI collagen (COL6) in Inflammation
Alterations in homeostasis of extracellular matrix (ECM) would affect the function of cells in the tissues.  The goal is to understand the interplay between increased amounts of COL6 and subsequent immune responses in lung diseases.  The projects are as follows:

  • Define the effects of COL6 on macrophages
  • Define the signaling pathway mediated by COL6 in macrophages
  • Role of COL6 from chronic inflammation to cancer in the lung