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Kagan Laboratory Research | Overview


Our immune system faces the challenge of defending us from colonization by microbes that surround us every day.  Some of these microbes are beneficial, and can help us obtain nutrients from the environment.  Others are predatory, and can cause significant damage to the germ-free environments of our bodies.  We seek to identify fundamental principles that explain the outcome of host-microbe interactions, with the goal of understanding how our innate immune system is able to recognize and respond to accidental and pathogenic microbial encounters.

Innate Immune Signal Transduction Pathways

Microorganisms colonize virtually every ecological niche on Earth, with a notable exception being the internal organs of the human body. The task of maintaining an inhospitable microbial environment is the responsibility of the various arms of the innate immune system. Innate immunity is controlled by several microbial detection systems that serve to initiate all known aspects of adaptive immunity. While the study of innate immunity has progressed greatly over the last decade, we still do not understand the most basic principles that explain the evolution and behavior of the various signaling pathways that are involved in microbial detection. Our lab is focused on understanding the regulation of innate immunity at the level of microbial detection and signal transduction. Of particular interest are the family of Toll-like Receptors (TLRs), which evolved to specifically link microbial detection to the control of adaptive immunity. Each image below highlights an area of research our lab is interested in.