Laboratory of Reproductive and Mucosal Immunology
Our research group is based in the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Immunology and Microbiology and Oncology of Wayne State University, the Perinatology Research Branch (PRB) of Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, Michigan, USA.
We study the regulation of immune responses during pregnancy, fetal and child development. Many common reproductive disorders have immunological basis. The study of the immunology of reproduction thus directs the understanding, treatment and prevention of these disorders. Our long-term goal is to harness the knowledge gained from our work to develop diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive strategies to reduce adverse pregnancy outcomes, infant mortality and disability. Immunological concepts and technologies are integral to our scientific program. Being located in the largest single-campus medical school in the United States, we enjoy the close collaboration with colleagues in the Wayne State University and the Perinatology Research Branch. We also have external collaborators in the United States, Europe and Asia.
Humoral Immunity during pregnancy
Antibodies constitute an important component of immune defense. In reproductive mucosal areas, antibodies confer frontline protection by limiting microbial invasion, eliciting immunity against noxious pathogens and promoting ignorance or tolerance to innocuous commensal microbes. Dysregulation of antibody responses can cause a variety of pregnancy complications. We are studying the regulation of humoral immune responses in pregnancy. We are also analyzing how mechanisms regulating the normal behaviors of B cells break down in pathological pregnancy, and whether the restoration of these mechanisms can alleviate or prevent diseases.
Mucosal immunity of the reproductive tract
The female reproductive mucosal immune system protects the host against infections and adapts to a spectrum of physiological events, such as menstruation and pregnancy. A major immune defense mechanism in the female genital tract is the production of mucosal antibodies, mainly class-switched IgA and IgG. We are studying the hormonal and immunological regulation of genital antibody production in pregnant and non-pregnant states.
Immune tolerance mechanisms at the maternal-fetal interface
The placental immune system maintains an intricate balance of the various arms of immune responses to ensure the reception and survival of a semi-allogeneic fetus in the mother's uterus. A shift from this balance underlies many pregnancy disorders, such as preeclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction and preterm labor. How the placental immune environment is initiated or maintained is not fully understood. We are identifying novel molecules and cells that play critical roles in the establishment and maintenance of the placental immune environment.
Fetal B cell development
Recent studies have suggested extensive crosstalk between the maternal and the fetal immune system and demonstrated that the fetal immune system also undergoes adaption in order for the fetus to successfully develop in the mother's uterus. The development of the fetal immune system has profound impact on postnatal health. We are focusing on fetal B cell hematopoiesis in syneneic and allogeneic mothers. Findings will contribute to the understanding of fetal hematopoiesis and help to identify strategies to promote the development of a healthier immune system of the newborn.
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