Microbiology & Immunology Adjunct Faculty
Judy M. Teale, Ph.D.
A central goal of our laboratory is understanding the process of B lymphocyte differentiation. The B cell is the cell type that produces antibodies as a result of antigenic challenge, e.g., the introduction of infectious organisms. The body contains a vast array of B lymphocytes, each of which can respond to a different antigen and produce antibodies of unique specificities.
One of the projects of the laboratory is determining how such a diverse B cell immune repertoire is generated. We know that diversity is created, in part, by the selection and recombination of small gene segments that encode the variable region or antigen binding site of the antibody molecule. One fascinating aspect in the generation of the repertoire is that B cell specificities develop in a predictable temporal order. These early specificities may be important in the defense of the fetus and neonate against infectious organisms. Another important finding is that there is a difference in variable region gene expression in neonates vs. adults. Our data suggest that these differences may relate to distinct B cell subsets. Using cellular and molecular approaches, our current studies will define distinct B cell progenitors, determine the role of the microenvironment, and delineate genetic mechanisms involved in the generation of a diverse immune repertoire.
Another major project in the lab is the immunology of parasite infections. We have been studying helminth infections caused by Mesocestoides corti and Taenia solium. M. corti causes hypergammaglobulinemia, eosinophilia, and granulomatous disease. A specific aim is to determine how these immune responses to the parasite are regulated. We are particularly interested in the cells and cytokines induced and the parasite specific molecules responsible for their induction. Early on in the infection the organism encysts the liver and granulomas form to help contain the infection. Our studies are carefully evaluating the immune molecules required for granuloma formation.
T. solium is the causative agent of neurocysticercosis in which the organism invades the brain. This is a disease that affects millions of people, especially in Mexico and South America. We are analyzing brain tissue from infected patients to define the immune response and associated pathology. We have also developed a murine model for the disease. Our studies have revealed a variety of immune cells that can cross the blood brain barrier. These cells produce several cytokines that are known to amplify the immune response further. We are currently using this information to uncover the mechanisms of pathology. These studies of the brain are particularly important because it allows us to compare the systemic immune response with that of the central nervous system.
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