Most of our work over the years has focused on T cells. T cells are amongst the cells which recognize that an infection is occurring in the body. They accomplish this in an unexpected way, by reacting with fragments of the infection bound to special proteins of the body, the MHC proteins. We are trying to find out how T cells learn to react in this way. We are also interested in the ways in which T cells are prevented from attacking MHC proteins bound to fragments of their own host. In most people such attack is efficiently avoided. However, in some individuals T cells do react in this way, and this event causes autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile diabetes. However we do also study B cells, in particular a previously under investigated type of B cell (ABC) we first found in elderly female mice, but which has also been found by others and ourselves in women and mice with autoimmune diseases and in mice and humans with various infections including SARS-CoV-2. In mice these cells are important producers of autoantibodies and antibodies that efficiently get rid of virus infections. However, although they can produce autoantibodies in humans, their significance in infections is not currently known.
Katja Aviszus, PhD, Senior Researcher
ABCs (age associated B cells) are a subtype of B cells that were originally identified in elderly female mice. Since their discovery in mice, ABCs have also been discovered in humans. We and others have found ABCs in patients with autoimmune diseases, virus infections, and even specific cancers. At the moment, I am focusing on these cells suffering from virus infections or cancer. In collaboration with the lab of Dr. Robinson at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center, I am investigating ABCs in patients with Melanoma. With the Liu and Zhang labs in our department and physicians at National Jewish, I am looking at ABCs in COVID patients. As SARS CoV-2 has been reported to lead to autoimmune side effects, our research with ABCs is coming full circle.
Alex Brown, Graduate Student
I study how the T cell receptor repertoire of murine αβ T cells is influenced by particular MHC alleles. We believe this work can deliver important insights into understanding genetic susceptibility to developing various autoimmune diseases. Successful completion of this work will lead to new bioinformatic tools and a new high-throughput platform to sequence paired TCRαβ chains, which could be useful to many researchers.