Dartmouth College Immunology, PhD, 2003
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Postdoctoral Fellow, 2008
Epigenetic mechanisms, such as histone modifications and DNA methylation, translate environmental signals into gene regulation. These molecular epigenetic processes, translate the myriad environmental signals encountered each day, into definitive regulation of our genome and, by extension, who we are at a basic biological level.
Dr. O'Connor is focused on understanding how epigenetic mechanisms regulate the decision processes governing immune cell activity in the context of disease. The immune system is comprised of multiple types of autonomous cells that must work together to influence the outcome of disease. Fundamentally, gene expression controls the identity and function of the various immune cells. Epigenetic mechanisms, such as histone modification and DNA methylation, translate the environmental signals encountered by immune cells into regulation of gene expression, cell function and ultimately, cell identity and fate determination.
The primary goal of the lab is to understand how the human experience (macro- & micro-environment) affects immune epigenetics and to then use that knowledge to treat diseases. Currently, Dr. O’Connor examines the cross talk between environmental stimuli (such as diet or inflammation), the immune system, and disease (such as Asthma).