Research programs within the Department of Immunology address both basic science and clinical objectives. Laboratories of individual investigators target the fundamental biological principles of immunology and operate to identify, define and characterize the mechanisms that determine how our bodies distinguish foreign materials and what kind of responses are subsequently engaged. These efforts are organized around the innate immune functions that serve as determinants of inflammatory response and they ways in which such mechanisms support and direct the adaptive immune response. Efforts examining innate immunity evaluate the regulation of response to pattern recognition receptors distinguishing a wide range of invariant structures that characterize the microbial pathogen world. These include the analysis of mechanisms that mediate signal transduction and regulate patterns of gene expression that govern the ensuing inflammatory responses. Studies of adaptive immunity are oriented toward aspects of T and B cell development and function at the cellular and molecular level and include the development and evolution of specific T cell and B cell populations, the recruitment and function of specific T cell subsets in sites of immune-mediated inflammation, and the homeostatic regulation of lymphocyte number and antigen specificity. These broad themes provide remarkable opportunities for interaction among the individual laboratories and together integrate the department interests at the interface between innate and acquired immunity and the resulting complexity of immune-mediated inflammation. This concept appears to be highly relevant in a spectrum of clinically important entities that have either acute or chronic inflammation as a key causative or symptomatic feature of pathogenesis. Translation of our basic science represents a high priority for the department as a whole and our programs have 3 significant disease-related components. A major program is focused around understanding and manipulating the function of the immune system in the context of solid organ transplantation and there are 5 laboratories dedicated to this enterprise. A second feature involves the role of both innate and adaptive immune mechanisms in the pathogenesis of autoimmune disorders that include multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosis, and inflammatory bowel disease. The third translational component involves cancer immunobiology and investigators in this realm are considering how cancer cells undermine the immune system as well as how therapeutic strategies may help to direct the immune system to destroy tumors selectively.
The Department of Immunology has six Full Staff members (Drs. Thomas Hamilton, William Baldwin, Robert Fairchild, James Finke, Xiaoxia Li and Vincent Tuohy), four Associate Staff (Drs. Booki Min, Anna Valujskikh, Lina Lu, and Shiguang Qian), two Assistant Staff (Drs. Neetu Gupta, Trine Jorgensen and two Staff Scientist (Drs. Li-Xin Wang & Charles Tannenbaum). In addition, four investigators hold primary departmental appointments in clinical institutes but have active laboratory programs housed within the Department of Immunology. These include Drs. Greg Plautz (Pediatric Hematology-Oncology), Emilio Poggio (Nephrology), Maria Siemionow and Brian Gastman (Plastic Surgery). These investigators participate in substantial collaborative interactions with colleagues holding primary appointments in Immunology and thereby serve as important liaisons between the laboratory bench and the bedside.