Our body, as well as that of all other living creatures, is equipped with a complex defense system that protects us from microbes that cause disease. This system, known as the immune system, is made of cells and proteins that are tightly controlled as they can accidentally damage our own body if “turned on” in the absence of real threat from disease-causing microbes. Thus, our immune system only responds to very specific signals from dangerous microbes.
Our laboratory studies the signals that turn on the immune system when our body is infected with a virus. We also investigate how is our body is protected from collateral damage once these defenses are turned on. We focus on viruses that infect our lungs and airways. For example, the respiratory syncytial virus and the influenza virus. These kind of viruses are common causes of disease in humans and other animals and we do not yet have good ways of protecting ourselves from getting infected.
Respiratory viruses can be fatal for some people or can cause or exacerbate chronic lung diseases, such as asthma. By understanding how the immune response is turned on during infection and how our body protects itself from the ammunition of our immune system we hope to contribute to the design of new vaccines and therapies to protect us from these infections.