Science for Health
The immune system is the body's natural defense mechanism protecting us from infection by micro-organisms and the diseases they cause. Malfunctions of the system, however, are also major causes of disease. Reduced activity of the immune system, such as that found in AIDS or following medical treatment of cancer, leads to high susceptibility to infection and life-threatening disease. In contrast, over-activation can cause damage to host tissues that can result in 'auto-immune' diseases such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, or inflammatory diseases such as asthma and eczema. A better understanding of how the immune system functions is essential to allow the design of more effective therapies for these diseases, and is thus of crucial importance for human health.
Research in the Division is concerned with signal transduction within the immune system. Signals emanating from many different cell surface proteins, such as antigen receptors, receptors for pathogen-associated molecular patterns, integrins and cytokine / chemokine receptors are integrated by cells of the immune system and determine whether the cells survive, become activated, proliferate, differentiate or are induced to die by apoptosis. Our research is aimed at understanding how such signals are transduced at a molecular level and their consequences on the immune system.
In addition we are interested in understanding the molecular basis of Down Syndrome (DS). We are using mouse models of DS to identify dosage sensitive genes which cause particular aspects of DS when present in three copies.
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