Viral Pathogenesis and Evolution
The Cheeran laboratory primarily investigates the role of cell-mediated and innate immune responses in the development of disease and in modulating recovery outcomes during viral infections. Central nervous system (CNS) infections are often associated with long-term neurological sequelae ensuing from irreparable damage caused by both the pathogen and the immune response it generates. These researchers use a mouse model of HSV-1 brain infection to investigate if modulating the inflammation accompanying infection alters the reparative properties of neural stem cells (NSC). Experimental protocols utilize both in vitro and in vivo models to investigate mechanisms by which immune cues alter NSC function. The goal is to identify novel points of intervention to prevent or repair the long-term neurological damage primarily by manipulating the interactions between immune cells and NSC niche.
In addition to CNS infections, these researchers study the impact of T-cell responses on emerging viral infections in production animals, in particular Swine influenza virus (SIV) and Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus. SIV has drifted antigenically over the last two decades, despite vaccination efforts. While it is perceived that host responses, in particular humoral (antibody) responses, impose selection pressure on emerging viruses, the mechanisms that drive selection of virus mutations in the pig are at best speculative. This gap in knowledge is particularly prominent in the understanding of T-cell immunity in pigs. Recently, this group has identified Swine Influenza virus epitopes that constitute an important component of protective T-cell response against influenza in domesticated pigs. This lab is currently developing methods to study the immunology of porcine T lymphocytes, which are an important component of protective immunity against viral infections of the respiratory and gastrointestinal mucosa. Understanding mechanisms by which immune pressure directs antigenic variation in PEDV and SIV may be critical for predicting and protecting against the next pandemic.
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