About our program

Immunology is an essential pillar of the biomedical sciences and seeks to define the role of the immune system in states of both health and disease. Researchers at our Blacksburg and Maryland facilities are engaged in both molecular and cellular immunology research on topics broadly covering autoimmunity, adaptive immunity, innate immunity, and host-microbe interactions.

In addition to basic research, our team seeks to translate findings from bench-to-bedside to improve both human and animal health. The integration of animal model research with both veterinary and human clinical studies is a major strength of our program.

The innate immune system, which is the first line of host defense against harmful agents, provides an immediate response to pathogens and cellular damage.

Current research areas

  • Host-pathogen defense
  • Pattern Recognition Receptor signaling and function
  • Cancer immunology
  • Leukocyte biology
  • Inflammation
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Innate immune system interactions with the adaptive immune system
  • Human and veterinary inflammatory disease pathobiology
  • Therapeutic modification of the innate immune response

The adaptive immune system is responsible for coordinating short-term effector immune responses to infection, as well as promoting long-term natural and vaccine-induced immunity.

Current research areas

  • Effector T and B lymphocyte differentiation
  • Molecular mechanisms underlying memory T cell development
  • Adaptive immune response to bacterial and viral infection
  • Vaccine development
  • Adaptive immune response involvement in autoimmunity and immunodeficiency
  • Computational modeling of the adaptive immune response
  • Adaptive immune system in veterinary immunology

Autoimmune diseases cause the immune system, which is designed to attack foreign intruders of the body, to erroneously act on the body itself.

Current research areas

  • Sex differences in autoimmunity and autoimmune diseases
  • Hormonal regulation of autoimmunity
  • Epigenetic regulation of autoimmunity
  • Signaling pathways of inflammation
  • Role of microbiome in autoimmunity

The immune system begins to mature at birth following our initial exposure to microbes, and the colonizing microbiota ultimately develops a mutualist interaction that functions to maintain mucosal immune system homeostasis.

Current research areas

  • Dietary modulation of host-microbiome interactions
  • Host-virus, host-bacteria, and host-parasite interactions
  • Impact of the gut microbiome in health and disease
  • Mucosal immunology
  • Pathogen-mediated immune system modulation
  • Utilization of viruses and bacteria as vectors and therapeutics

Faculty Research Team

Ansar Ahmed, DVM, PhD
Professor, Immunology
Head, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology
Research focus: Molecular aspects of pro-inflammatory cytokine signaling (e.g. interferon-gamma, IL-27, IL-12, IL-17), induction of transcription factors, regulation of inflammation and autoimmune diseases by microRNAs, and the role of microbiota in autoimmune disease.

Irving Coy Allen, PhD
Associate Professor, Inflammatory Disease
Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology
Allen Laboratory→
Research focus: Critical factors associated with induction of the host immune response following pathogen exposure, during chronic inflammatory disease and in cancer, and resolution of an overzealous immune response

Xin Luo, PhD
Associate Professor, Immunology
Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology
Luo Laboratory→
Research focus: Immunological and microbial regulation of autoimmunity and immunodeficiency; murine models and human patient samples utilized to study various diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus and primary immunodeficiencies