Immunomodulatory effects of endogenous retroviruses in infection and inflammation

Infectious diseases and chronic inflammatory diseases plague human health and account for roughly 60 percent of deaths worldwide. Basic and translational research that reveal new mechanisms of immune modulation during viral infection and chronic inflammatory diseases are therefore critical to lower health burden. Genetic and environmental factors influence immune responses, but we are far from achieving a comprehensive understanding of mechanisms that underlie protective responses and unwanted excessive inflammation. Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) are viral sequences that are major components of all human genomes, yet ERVs have been largely overlooked in the context of infectious diseases and chronic inflammation. Dr. Maria Tokuyama will develop a highly innovative and rigorous research program to identify novel interactions between ERVs and the immune system and determine interactions that boost antiviral responses in the context of viral infection and those that promote excessive inflammation in the context of chronic inflammatory diseases. This research will expand our knowledge of the underlying mechanisms of disease and will lead to health and economic benefits for Canadians.