My laboratory studies how the development of immune cells is controlled. This process is critical to protect us against the many potentially harmful micro-organisms in the environment. Developing immune cells have many decisions to make, from deciphering the early signals that initiate their formation from rare blood stem cells, through to strategic responses in the body about whether to ignore or attack foreign organisms. These decisions are important as errors in the immune system result in diseases such as autoimmunity and leukaemia.
My research aims to decipher how these cellular decisions are made and the consequences for our protective immunity.
Our mission is to gain an understanding of how our immune system is set up and pinpoint what goes wrong in diseases of rogue immune cells such as autoimmunity and blood cell cancers. We aim to use this knowledge to discover new approaches to treat these diseases.
Our lab has made important contribution to the understanding of how our immune system responds to infections, in particular how the antibody that provides the beneficial effects of immunization is produced.
We discovered how a rare, but important cell type, the plasma cell, produces this antibody and how another cell type, the dendritic cell, acts as the coordinator of the immune response throughout the body.
Dendritic cells (DCs) are key sentinels that are found throughout the body and act to stimulate protective immune responses against pathogens or cancers. To better tailor the immune response to the challenge at hand, DCs have evolved into multiple anatomically and functionally distinct cell types that form an interface between the external environment and the adaptive immune system. We aim to better understand how this DC diversity is programmed on a transcriptional level as well as to devise approaches to better harness the immune stimulatory properties of DCs to promote key functions such as anti-tumour immunity.
Team members: Dr Shengbo Zhang, Angela D’Amico
Antibodies are an essential element of the immune response to infection and underpin the success of current vaccination strategies. Antibodies are produced by plasma cells, the terminally differentiated cells of the B lymphocyte lineage. We are interested in the biological process producing B lymphocytes and plasma cells, as well as the sources of diversity within the immune response. An improved understanding of the production of antibodies will not only provide new approaches to improve vaccination strategies but also provide insights into why this process sometimes goes awry, resulting in autoimmune diseases and the formation of blood cell cancers.
Team members: Dr Julie Tellier, Dr Caleb Dawson, Dr Ashley Ng, Junli Nie, Ladina Di Rago
Multiple myeloma is a malignancy of antibody-secreting plasma cells and is one of the most common blood cancers. Despite considerable treatment advances in recent years, many patients relapse, and the disease remains incurable. We aim to use genetic models and human multiple myeloma material to develop new treatment options for multiple myeloma patients.
Team members: Dr Simon Willis, Dr Melissa Holmes, Jacob Jackson
Chronic inflammatory diseases have common pathogenic features of dysregulated immune responses. However, the events leading to this dysregulation are not well understood. The maintenance of mucosal homeostasis requires sensory circuits to continually survey mucosal tracts for perturbations in microbial, dietary, and environmental cues.
In this project, we are mapping the interactions between the nervous and immune systems to establish their roles in the maintenance of tissue homeostasis and control of inflammation. An understanding of these pathways will form the basis for exploiting neuronal circuits to promote homeostatic function of immune cells and inform novel therapeutic strategies for inflammatory diseases.
Team members: Dr Cyril Seillet, Le Xiong
Our group includes a diverse mix of researchers interested in immunology, cell biology, gene regulation, and developing new approaches to treat cancer.
We work closely with members of WEHI’s Bioinformatics division and the Centre for Dynamic Imaging and Advanced Genomics Facility.