Genetic Variation and Altered Leucocyte Function in Health and Disease (GANDALF)
Professor Ken Smith
Institution or company
University of Cambridge
We are studying factors that affect regulation of the immune system. The immune system has the complex task of protecting the body against infectious organisms without attacking its own tissues. Without a well functioning immune system we are susceptible to a vast array of viral, bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections. However, when the immune system acts against the body it can cause important "autoimmune" diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Genetic variation between individuals can affect the way their immune system responds to infections, and may predispose some individuals to autoimmune disease. In addition,
genetic variation may affect the way the immune system is affected by immune
suppressant drugs, as well as the likelihood of rejection after a transplant.
We plan to study the way the immune system responds to stimuli including infectious
organisms and immune complexes. In particular, we wish to further investigate how
genetic differences between individuals affect the way their white blood cells respond
under a number of conditions. We hope a better understanding of how genetic variation
affects immune responses will lead to new ways to treat infections, transplant rejection
and autoimmune disease.