Immune activity in cancer and autoimmune disease (Cellular Biology, Imaging, Mass Cytometry)
Our laboratory studies how the immune system decides to attack invading microbes, but not to attack our own organs. Defects in this decision-making process can cause immunodeficiency or autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis or type 1 diabetes.
We have found that the programmed destruction of immune cells is an important part of this decision-making process. By understanding the 'choreography' of immune cell death, we seek to understand how these processes work in health and disease. We will use these insights to design better treatments for immune disorders and cancer.
Our lab seeks to understand how the body protects itself from cancer and autoimmune disease. Many mechanisms have evolved to ensure that the immune system does not attack our own tissues. This property is called immunological tolerance. Understanding how to modify tolerance mechanisms will open up new therapeutic avenues for cancer and autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
Our work currently focuses on understanding how defects in cell death and immune homeostasis engender disease. We employ novel models, flow cytometry, molecular biology and confocal imaging platforms to address how these processes shape the development and function of T cells in health and disease.
Harnessing new technologies
One particular project we are working on aims to find new therapies for treating chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) using mass cytometry to explore the inner workings of individual cancer cells. This new technology, combined with access to patient samples, gives us an opportunity to understand how cancers become resistant to treatment and presents an exciting opportunity to make a difference to those affected by CLL, the most common blood cancer in Australia.