Our body, as well as that of all other animals, is equipped with a complex defense system that protects us from microbes that cause disease. Our laboratory studies the signals that turn on and regulate this defense system –the immune system- when we are infected with common viruses, such as the influenza virus or the respiratory syncytial virus. These viruses can cause or exacerbate chronic lung diseases, such as asthma, and can be fatal in some patients.
The immune response that prevents the virus from growing to dangerous levels and causing disease can be very damaging to our own body if turned on in the absence of real threat from disease-causing microbes; thus, the immune response it is tightly regulated and is only active upon recognition of specific signals from the invading pathogens by specialized cellular proteins.
By identifying the viral and cellular molecules involved in initiating the immune response during infection and by elucidating how our body protects itself from the ammunitions of the immune system, we hope to contribute to the development of better antiviral treatments and vaccines to protect humans and other animals from these infections.