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Wild Immunology

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Simon Babayan researches mechanisms that underlie protective immunity and disease; the phenotypes immune cells adopt to mitigate disease; and how to detect and quantify protective immune profiles in laboratory models, domesticated animals, and in natural populations. Major questions:

1. How do immune-mediated host-parasite interactions affect parasite fitness? (protective immunity vs. parasite immune evasion)

2. How does the immune system integrate the myriad sources of natural variation to maintain health? (wild immunology)

3. How to design safe and more effective vaccines? (nature-proof vaccines)

Specifically, studying how parasitic helminths are affected by host immune responses as a function of parasite immune evasion and immune protective efficacy; how protective immunity is affected by variation in host sex, nutrition, age, and confection; developing anti-filarial vaccines that target parasite immune modulators and thus limit the ability of these worms to evade host immune responses. Methods combine lab-based to analysis of molecular and cellular responses to tightly controlled infections, diets and age structures, with field studies to provide insights into how such responses affect population-level dynamics such as morbidity/mortality rates and disease transmission. This work parasitology, immunology, ecology, and computational biology – and requires (attempting at least some) integration of immunity at the molecular, cellular, organismal, and population levels.

This talk is part of the Parasitology Seminars series.

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