My lab investigates the pathogenesis of chronic hepatitis B virus infection with the goal of exploiting that knowledge to develop novel immunotherapeutic approaches. I am particularly interested in how the human immune system interacts with viral proteins in the blood and immune responses in the human liver, the sight of HBV infection.
My previous work demonstrated that specific immune cells, monocytes, in the blood of chronic hepatitis B patients internalize and retain viral antigen. Using a combination of cytokines we could stimulate presentation of the captured antigen to boost HBV-specific T cell immunity. The goal now is to further understand this mechanism in patients to define an immunotherapeutic drug combination that can be used to restore anti-viral T cell immunity using the personalized antigen reservoir in the patients’ blood.
Our research on human liver immunology focuses on how age, sex and infection impact the intrahepatic immune response. Chronic hepatitis B is a progressive disease that worsens with age and men are more likely than women to develop liver cancer. We are trying to elucidate functional differences in the liver to understand HBV progression and biomarkers that could provide a drug targets to stop or slow disease progression.