Joseph C. Sun
Regulation of Natural Killer Cells and their Roles in Prevention of Viral Infections and Cancer
The immune system responds to viral infections by introducing a complex interplay of immune cells and factors, whose goal is to eliminate the intruding pathogen. One such effector cell in the antiviral response is the Natural Killer (NK) cell, which secretes inflammatory cytokines and directly kills infected cells. The focus of our research is aimed at defining the signals that NK cells require to mount an effective immune response against pathogens. We are also exploring the regulatory mechanisms keeping NK cells in check, thereby safeguarding against potential autoimmunity. Understanding the biology of NK cells and how these cells of the immune system specifically attack virally infected and transformed cells, but not healthy cells, we will be able to develop more effective preventative and therapeutic approaches in the battle against infectious diseases and cancer.