The research in my laboratory investigates how pathogen interaction with the innate immune system influences the development of adaptive immunity and inflammation. My particular interest is Type 2 inflammation, which is responsible for widespread suffering in allergy, as well as being a hallmark of infection with parasitic worms (helminths). Our work addresses some outstanding fundamental questions about the role of a specialised type of immune cell – the dendritic cell (DC) – in orchestration of Type 2 inflammation. DCs are centrally involved in initiation of immune responses in most settings, but the precise mechanisms by which they direct Type 2 inflammation are currently not known.
The main questions we are addressing at the moment are:
1) How do DCs become activated in Type 2 settings?
2) How necessary are DCs for induction and coordination of Type 2 inflammation?
3) By what mechanism do DCs initiate Type 2 inflammation?
Our research uses a combination of in vivo and in vitro model systems, focussing on the Type 2 response to the medically important parasitic helminth Schistosoma mansoni. Murine infection with this parasite provides a relevant experimental model of Type 2 inflammation that has been used extensively by my laboratory and others to reveal important cellular and molecular players and processes during hepatic, intestinal and pulmonary inflammation. The overarching aim of our research is to determine how Type 2 immunity is initiated, maintained and regulated, with the ultimate goal being identification of cellular and molecular targets for rational development of therapeutics.