Host-pathogen interactions form the basis for numerous therapeutic, vaccine and diagnostic strategies in infectious disease. Development of these strategies requires an in-depth understanding of the molecules used by host and pathogen to control infection and/or evade the counter-response. Research in this area has concentrated largely on protein, lipid, or polysaccharide- based molecules. Research in our group focuses on the role of another type of molecule, ribonucleic acid (RNA), in host-pathogen interactions.
Small pieces of RNA work inside cells to control the quantity of individual proteins expressed at a give time. During infection these pieces of RNA can therefore determine how well an organism can mount an immune response to a pathogen.
Our research focuses on the role of these small RNAs play in the response to viruses and other pathogens. We examine how viruses can inhibit small RNAs and why certain sequences of small RNA are important during infection.
We also have found that RNAs can move from extracellular pathogens (parasitic worms) into host cells. We are currently working to understand these natural processes of RNA secretion and uptake. One exciting finding from our work is the fact that parasite-derived small RNAs are in human serum and we are currently examining how to use this as a diagnostic tool.
This research is funded by: