Immunology and Innate Defenses

Cell picture.

Immunology is the branch of the biomedical sciences concerned with the structure, function, and disorders of the immune system, innate and acquired immunity, and the bodily distinctions of self from non-self.  The immune system protects the body from disease-causing pathogens that invade the body through wounds, or through mucous membranes such as those in the oral cavity and lung.

Research in this department focuses on many aspects of "innate" immune defenses, which act immediately and relatively non-specifically to target pathogens for clearance.  Such defenses include inflammatory cytokines (TNF-alpha, IL-1beta, and IL-17), anti-microbial peptides (histatins, defensins, and mucins), and phagocytic cells (macrophages, neutrophils, and dendritic cells).  

Efforts are also aimed at understanding how inflammatory mediators, induced in chronic disease settings such as periodontal disease, contribute to systemic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).