Vaccination is the most successful public health intervention for reducing the burden of infectious disease. There are many infections, however, for which no vaccine is currently available. To date, most vaccines have been designed empirically as opposed to rationally, suggesting that a deeper understanding of the immune response to pathogens can be used to develop more effective and safer vaccines. Although CD4 T cells are an essential component of host immunity, there are currently no vaccines targeting this compartment. Our lab investigates CD4 T cell responses in barrier tissues, with a specific focus on the formation and impact of CD4 T cells that support antibody production by B cells. Using a combination of single cell and systems immunology approaches we are addressing the biologic underpinnings and therapeutic potential of mucosal immunity to combat globally relevant pathogens including influenza and tuberculosis.
Systems Immunology: There has been a recent explosion of single cell techniques for investigating transcriptional responses at an unbiased single cell level as well as multiplexed microscopy approaches to identify and quantify cellular spatial relationships. In addition, we have established a novel approach to address the differentiation and plasticity of immune cells (e.g. CD4 T cells as in figure above) and their progeny ex vivo, using time-lapse microscopy. By applying these single cell technologies we aim to advance our understanding of adaptive immunity, using a macro-to-micro approach: we start from the whole organ, examine specific immune cell subsets, and then proceed to molecular determinants of individual cell fates and function.