5. Battling Deadly Fungi
The lab of Jonathan Reichner, PhD, professor of surgery (research), has puzzled out how the immune system responds to fungal infections, in hopes that knowledge can help develop new therapies. They observed that integrins on the surface of neutrophils signal the cells to attack fungus as it spreads its hyphae into infected tissue. They then manipulated the integrins to change the behavior of the neutrophils, paving the way for studies that attempt to improve the body’s defenses. “We are looking for ways to mobilize and activate our neutrophils to eliminate fungal infections, especially hyphal forms of fungal infections,” says Courtney Johnson PhD’15 MD’17, who led the study with the late Xian O’Brien PhD’10, instructor in surgery (research). The authors of the paper, which was published in the Journal of Immunology, stress that they don’t yet know whether the response helps or does more damage, so more research will follow; the new ability to manipulate the response means the team can test ways to either augment or restrain it.