T Regulatory cells in toxoplasma pathogenesis

Toxoplasma gondii, commonly acquired by eating under-cooked meat, is a particularly successful pathogen that establishes life-long infections with its capacity to infect, replicate and persist chronically within host immune cells. Toxoplasma causes an acute, influenza-like disease that typically becomes a chronic infection. Immuno-suppressed individuals are at risk for developing chorioretinitis (inflammation of the choroid layer behind the retina), blindness and fatal encephalitis. An emerging concept in the immunology of infectious diseases is that persistent pathogens like Toxoplasma establish chronic infections by activating T regulatory cells (Tregs), which are thought to have the ability to selectively suppress immune responses. Dr. Andrew Hall is investigating the immunological basis of Toxoplasma persistence and how this pathogen evolves to promote Tregs. He aims to determine the molecular details governing Treg generation and function, and to establish their role as critical immune regulators of persistent infections. Andrew hopes that results from his research will help to develop novel methods of immunotherapy or vaccines designed to target the regulatory T-cell network in disease and to contribute significantly toward the development of cures.