MS, PhD, Microbiology
University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry
Caroline Genco, PhD, Adviser
I am most interested within the interface between pathogen and host, in context of innate immunity. Often researchers study the symptoms within a host during a specific disease, yet the interactions of how a pathogen is able to subvert, avoid, or overcome the normal functioning of the immune response is overlooked. These evolved mechanisms highlight the complexities of bacterial virulence. Current research involves P. gingivalis, a pathogen that has been linked to periodontal disease and atherosclerosis. During P. gingivalis infection there is an increase in local inflammation, cytokine/chemokine production levels, as well as Toll-like receptor expression. In order to study the effects of bacterial infection in context of atherosclerosis, we utilize primary endothelial cells. These serve as a model for not only proper activation of the innate immune response, but also deciphering any alteration to the normal signaling pathways as a result of bacterial intervention. We have recently discovered a novel evasion strategy by P. gingivalis that utilizes cysteine proteases to dysregulate innate immune signaling pathways. These studies support a mechanism by which the pathogen avoids clearance by the host, thus allowing for bacterial persistence, a hallmark of P. gingivalis induced chronic inflammatory diseases.
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