Unlocking the Underlying Mechanisms of Disease

ResearchersCancer. Heart Disease. Asthma. Crohn’s Disease. Multiple Sclerosis. Juvenile Diabetes. Could all of these diseases share a common scientific link? Amazingly, these diseases can all be related to a defective immune response. Cancer and heart disease may result from an ineffective immune response, either to tumor cells or to infection within the blood vessels. Asthma and Crohn’s disease are linked to an overzealous immune response to innocuous particles in the air or normally beneficial bacteria in the intestine. Autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and juvenile diabetes result from an immune system that turns on itself to destroy normal, healthy tissue.

At the University of Virginia, investigators in the Beirne B. Carter Center for Immunology Research (Carter Immunology Center) seek a fundamental understanding of how the immune system works. If they can determine, on the most basic level, how the immune system distinguishes between healthy and harmful cells, this could lead to revolutionary new treatments and cures based on controlling the immune response.