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When bacteria and viruses invade the body, a special class of immune cells rushes to our defense to determine what kind of response is needed. To learn more about this ability to detect pathogens, I plan to explore two questions: How do these cells sense other potentially damaging foreign substances, like carcinogens and allergens? And can we harness that information to develop treatments for cancer and food allergy?
I will use BroadIgnite funding to investigate how the cells that mediate immune response—called antigen-presenting cells—recognize and sense invaders. I will trigger immune response by exposing these cells to common allergens such as peanuts and known carcinogens such as asbestos. Then I will analyze these cells with a new batching technology that will allow me to test multiple carcinogens and allergens at once—significantly reducing experimental costs. My hope is to capture the receptors and signaling pathways involved in immune response and harness that information for new drug targets.