The immune system's ability to recognize threats is fundamental to the maintenance of health. The laboratory of Larry R. Pease, Ph.D., investigates the interactions between T lymphocytes and antigen-presenting cells, with the goal of understanding the regulatory events governing communication between these central immune players.
Dr. Pease's lab is working to discern how the body distinguishes self from nonself, and is applying this emerging body of knowledge on how to control immunity by focusing the immune response on threats such as infection and cancer.
Ongoing studies also seek to direct immunity in the healing process and to prevent the body from attacking its own organs, as occurs in autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes. Dr. Pease's lab hypothesizes that molecular signatures of immune status and immune potential may be applied as biomarkers of disease prognosis and of expected outcomes following therapeutic intervention. The lab is testing this hypothesis by using RNA expression profiles to define relevant immune profiles of healthy and patient populations.
- Investigating how the structural diversity of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules impacts the conserved T cell receptor in MHC contact sites along the molecular interface between ligand and receptor
- Elucidating the molecular events responsible for differential regulation of classical MHC class I genes during virus infection in the central nervous system
- Evaluating how strength of signal through the T cell receptor relates to T cell function in models of cancer immunity and type 1 diabetes
- Understanding how the immune system can direct repair of injured tissues in the central nervous system caused by multiple sclerosis, and how it promotes the transdifferentiation of liver cells into insulin production sites during acute diabetes
- Using RNA expression signatures in people as biomarkers for disease progression and response to therapy with the goal of describing molecular signatures of immune status and immune response potential
Significance to patient care
Inflammation is a key component of many different diseases. Understanding how to reduce inflammation that is caused by autoimmunity or chronic inflammation can be key to restoring health. Likewise, the ability to enhance immunity through antiviral therapies or cancer immunotherapy is equally crucial.
Dr. Pease's group is studying new ways of activating immunity and inherent mechanisms to control inflammation. These novel strategies are applicable to diseases such as breast cancer, lymphoma, melanoma, virus infection and autoimmune syndromes, including type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
In addition, the group is seeking to develop a widely applicable approach to describing the immune status and immune potential of patients, with the goal of using this information to predict the course of disease and the response to available therapies. The ability to foresee these outcomes would inform treatment choices, increasing effectiveness and reducing the cost of care.