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The immune system protects against infections, fights tumors, and contributes to the pathogenesis of many diseases. Consequently, immunology is a multidisciplinary area that overlaps with microbiology, oncology, and molecular and cell biology. Our faculty has research interests in several areas.

Innate immune cells (macrophages, etc) are mobilized against pathogens by signaling through specialized receptors. Our researchers have discovered that mutations in these molecules are the basis for a novel group of immune deficiencies (Vogel, Toshchakov) and they are developing strategies for regulation of the innate defenses. Cytokines and chemokines are produced during immune responses that regulate inflammation (Vogel, Perkins, Su), and cell activation (Keegan, Cross, Pearson), and contribute to diverse pathological reactions in various tissues (Moudgil).

The adaptive immune system uses diverse antigen receptors on B and T cells, and our research centers on how these receptors are generated during lymphocyte ontogeny (Flajnik, Dooley), how lymphocytes develop and are activated (Singh, Webb), and are programmed for subsequent cell death (Carey). A dysregulation of cell activation and immune regulation often leads to autoimmunity; our immunologists study the mechanisms and therapy of these diseases (Moudgil).  Several groups study the immunity to pathogenic bacteria (Barry, Blanchard, Carbonetti, Pedra, Vogel) and viruses, including HIV with a focus on B cells and antibody (Lewis), gamma/delta T cells (Cairo) and other anti-viral mechanisms (Garzino-Demo, Su). Ontogeny and senescence of immune responses to vaccines are also studied (Pasetti). Comparative studies of immunity in lower vertebrates have led to the discovery of novel immune molecules with unexpected properties that are being explored in biodefense (Ota, Flajnik). Novel immunotherapy of cancer using antibodies, nanoparticles, and T cell co-stimulation are being developed and tested (Dooley, Pearson, Schulze). Overcoming and utilizing the immune response to transplanted tissue is also being investigated (Cao, Mohiuddin).

Letter to Prospective Students

Martin Flajnik, Ph.D.
Track Leader, Immunology
Professor of Microbiology and Immunology  

Dear Prospective Graduate Students,

Over the past decade, there have been remarkable advances in our knowledge of both the innate and adaptive immune systems. Furthermore, the study of lymphocytes (and other hematopoietic lineages) has led to major progress in the general fields of programmed cell death, signal transduction, cell trafficking, and stem cell development. Our department offers diverse opportunities in the immunological sciences intersecting with all of these areas of biology.

Additionally, our faculty are engaged in research relevant to other major immunological disciplines such as: innate immunity (Vogel, Medvedev, Hassel, Perkins, Pedra); T cell activation and function (Keegan, Webb); B cell differentiation and function (Flajnik); major histocompatibility complex biology (Moudgil, Flajnik); stem cell differentiation (Feldman); and the evolution of immunity (Flajnik, Dooley). We have ongoing collaborations with the Institute for Human Virology in the study of immune responsiveness/vaccinology to HIV, especially with the laboratories of Drs. Cairo, Lewis and Su. Finally, our graduate students also have been trained by colleagues in other UMB departments (e.g. Fulton, Mann, Hasday, Cross), who examine basic and clinical problems in human immunology. With this breadth of faculty, we believe that our immunology program provides an intellectually stimulating environment for students.

Each week we hold an immunology journal club in which our students are active participants. We also have informal discussion sessions where students and faculty members present their latest data, and we share ideas on how to enhance our research strategies and develop collaborations. At least once each month we sponsor a prestigious outside speaker, who interacts with graduate students during an informal luncheon. We also participate in seminar series organized by The Inflammation Research Group (IRG), The Institute for Human Virology (IHV), and with The Immunology Group at Johns Hopkins University.

Our goal is to provide students with the intellectual and technical expertise not only to direct independent research programs either in academia or industry, but also to become leaders in their respective fields. We encourage you to contact us directly if you have any questions specifically concerning our research or generally regarding the department.