The key focus of our research is to address important problems in cell biology and immunology using state-of-the-art and novel imaging techniques. Broadly, the audacious goal of contemporary cell biology is to understand how the billion proteins in a live cell allow them to move, multiply, make a brain or defend us against viruses and bacteria.
Imaging where and when proteins interact with each other has a major role to play at this frontier. Recent imaging of just a few types of proteins has already led to several new ideas about how immune cells communicate with each other and how they recognize signs of disease. High-resolution microscope images of immune cells contacting other cells have revealed temporary membrane structures, often called immune synapses, where proteins commonly segregate into specific regions.
Exploring how such changing arrangements of proteins occur and how they control immune cell communication is the new science opened up by the immune synapse concept. Also, various cell types, including immune cells, can be connected by thin membrane tethers termed membrane nanotubes. Membrane nanotubes may facilitate a new mechanism for intercellular communication and can also contribute to pathologies, e.g. by directing the spread of HIV-1 to distant uninfected cells. We aim to continue this line of research following three overlapping themes of understanding molecular recognition by Natural Killer cells, developing novel imaging technologies and probing aspects of immune cell biology that are broadly applicable such the intercellular transfer of proteins and RNA.