The laboratory of Hu Zeng, Ph.D., focuses on metabolic regulation of lymphocyte development and differentiation. Lymphocytes, mainly composed of T cells and B cells, are major blood cells that find and destroy invading pathogens, as well as cancer cells. On the other hand, overly exuberate lymphocytes will likely attack self-tissues and lead to autoimmune diseases. Thus, lymphocytes are under exquisite regulation to balance immune defense and tolerance.
Cellular metabolism is a key mechanism to control lymphocyte development and activity. Dr. Zeng's lab is investigating how lymphocyte function is controlled by various metabolic processes in the context of normal development and autoimmune diseases.
- Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling in autoimmune diseases. Dr. Zeng's lab is studying how mTOR — a central regulator of cellular metabolism — activity in lymphocytes contributes to autoimmune disease progression.
- Regulation of mTOR in lymphocyte development and differentiation. Research in Dr. Zeng's lab is investigating how mTOR activity and cellular metabolism are regulated by a number of molecules during lymphocyte development and differentiation.
- Metabolic regulation of lymphocytes in human autoimmune diseases. Abnormal metabolism may lead to lymphocyte dysfunction and contribute to autoimmune diseases. Dr. Zeng's lab characterizes cellular metabolic features in human autoimmune diseases and investigates the cellular and molecular mechanisms that disrupt lymphocyte function, ultimately leading to autoimmune diseases.
Significance to patient care
Cellular metabolism dictates lymphocyte development, differentiation and immune function. Proper metabolic activity ensures lymphocyte immune competency without self-reactivity. Its deregulation may contribute to immune-related diseases such as lupus and arthritis. This revelation indicates that metabolic intervention may provide a novel avenue to combat diseases caused by errant immune cells.
Dr. Zeng's lab investigates molecular pathways related to lymphocyte metabolism, which will help identify new metabolic and molecular targets for treating these immune-related diseases.