Research: Basic Biomedical Studies into Immune Function

The research program in the Brusko Laboratory focuses on studying the human immune response in individuals that develop autoimmunity in an effort to develop better ways to predict, intervene, and ultimately treat individuals with type 1 diabetes. The laboratory is particularly interested in the fundamental events that control T cell activation and expansion, as these events are defective in individuals that develop type 1 diabetes. Of the various pathways that control immune responses, regulatory T cells (Tregs) have been shown to be central in controlling T cell activation and preventing diabetes development. Prior studies have already shown that antigen-specific Tregs can prevent, and even reverse diabetes in animal models. A major effort within the Brusko laboratory involves the generation of antigen-specific human Tregs to specifically suppress the immune response targeting islet beta-cells, while leaving the immune response to foreign agents intact. Additional studies are focused on identifying the genetic factors that lead to a breakdown in the mechanisms that maintain immune tolerance. These studies have identified several susceptibility genes that lead to defects in both the innate and adaptive immune responses in patients with T1D. The goal of these studies is to develop targeted therapies in an effort to correct specific defects in pathways that lead to disease.