Dr Nicholas Huntington

Dr Nicholas Huntington

left-column

headshot-wrapper

Nicholas Huntington

the-headshot-content

Dr
Nicholas
Huntington

BMedSc (Hons) LaTrobe PhD Melbourne

Laboratory Head

My research team aims to understand how the many diverse types of white blood cells develop, and how constant numbers of these cells are maintained throughout our life. We strive to comprehend how certain genes and tissue environments:

  • Instruct the development of white blood cells.

  • Maintain the numbers of different types of white blood cells.

  • Prime the protective functions of white blood cells.

This knowledge is critical for understanding errors in white blood cell development that are associated with leukaemia and immunodeficiency. Our goal is to contribute to the design of therapies to modulate the activity of white blood cells in chronic infections and cancer.

Research interest

My laboratory is focused on deciphering how different immune cells are generated and maintained in blood and lymphoid organs. We anticipate that our research will eventually reveal the cause and consequences of errors in immune cell homeostasis that lead to diseases such as chronic infections, leukaemia and immune deficiencies.

We are particularly interested in natural killer (NK) cells. NK cells participate in pathogen defence by producing pro-inflammatory cytokines and toxic granules that can directly kill infected or cancerous cells, as well as recruiting additional immune cells to the site of disease. During development in the bone marrow, NK cells become dependent on the cytokine interleukin-15 for their development and homeostasis. I have a long-standing interest in IL-15 biology and how this cytokine regulates NK cell homeostasis. We have made pivotal discoveries in this area that has allowed us to generate novel tools to deregulate NK cell homeostasis that will allow us to better understand their role in disease.

We are also working to develop robust, reproducible, cost-effective human model systems. These would underpin advances in many areas of medicine. My experience in blood stem cell xenograft biology and our location in the Clinical Translation Centre within the institute facilitate our investigations into human models. We aim to understand immune cell development and disease through close collaborations with resident clinicians and neighboring hospitals. We are applying genetic approaches to alter the normal behavior of blood cell progenitors to generate new models of human disease in order to discover and test novel therapeutics.

 

Research team group photo

Our bodies are constantly fighting off the development of cells that lead to tumours. Researchers have now discovered a protein ‘brake’ within Natural Killer cells that controls their ability to destroy their target tumour cells.