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How immune cells regulate their life span

Our research aims to understand how immune cells, in particular T cells, regulate their life span in order to carry out a proper immune response.

The T cells of our immune system are at the forefront in the fight against viruses, bacteria, and tumor cells. An appropriate number and diversity of T cells in peripheral lymphoid organs such as blood, spleen and lymph nodes is fundamental to the proper functioning of our immune system. 

Our laboratory is investigating the role of coronin proteins in establishing and regulating the T cell population. Coronin proteins are highly conserved in eukaryotes. The absence of one of these proteins, coronin 1, which is abundantly expressed in T cells, results in peripheral T cell paucity in both mice and men.  

Understanding T cell population homeostasis
T cell progenitors originate in the bone marrow and migrate to the thymus. Here they undergo development and selection before emigrating as T cells to circulate through peripheral lymphoid organs. However, while the thymus involutes around young adulthood, T cells are being maintained at near constant numbers long-term, up to decades in humans. We study the role the role of coronin proteins in the maintenance of T cells, as well as the consequences of coronin 1-deficiencies on T cell homeostasis and immunity. 

Role of coronin 1 in autoimmunity and transplant tolerance 
Whereas the absence of coronin 1 drastically reduces T cell numbers, the body is still able to maintain immune response against microbial pathogens, but resistance towards a variety of autoimmune stimuli and tolerance towards donor organs following transplantation. We are studying the pathways underlying this tolerance as a potential way to curb autoimmunity and transplant rejection.