Intravital microscopy facility
Our research program seeks to dissect the complex dynamics of host-virus interactions with a particular focus on how viruses are handled once they enter an organism, how antiviral adaptive immune responses are generated and how lymphocytes exert their function in the periphery. Since it is still beyond the reach of even the most sophisticated in vitro methodology to simulate the complex interplay of physical, cellular, biochemical, and other factors that influence cell behavior in microvessels and interstitial tissues, we make use of intravital microscopy. This technique is complemented by more traditional molecular, cellular and histological approaches, thus characterizing host-virus interactions at the molecular-, single cell- and whole animal-level.
Specifically, our current major research interests are:
- To characterize the dynamics of B cell activation to lymph-borne viruses and to identify viral factors interfering with the generation of neutralizing antibody responses. By bringing together state-of-the-art imaging technology, fluorescent replication-competent viruses and dedicated mouse models we are generating the first complete in vivo imaging survey of virus-specific B cell activation, from the first minutes of viral entry into lymph nodes to the generation of high affinity antibody-secreting cells. We are also investigating virus-induced mechanisms interfering with antibody responses. This new knowledge may lead to the development of novel rational vaccine strategies.
- To dissect the cellular and molecular determinants whereby CD8+ T cells control hepatotropic pathogens. By using advanced imaging in mouse models of hepatitis B virus pathogenesis, we are investigating the mechanisms whereby CD8+ T cells home to the liver, recognize antigens and deploy effector functions. Also, we are studying how diseased liver (i.e. fibrotic/cirrhotic or cancerous) might reduce immune surveillance towards infected or transformed hepatocytes.