Investigating Pulmonary Immunity and Inflammation
Lung infections are an important cause of death and illness all over the world, and this in spite of the advent of modern antibiotics. Acute respiratory infection (mostly in the form of pneumonia), for example, is the chief cause of death in children under five years of age and it is a leading cause of death among mechanically ventilated, critically ill patients. Furthermore, pneumonia can be especially severe in people hospitalized due to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and new microbial agents, such as the SARS coronavirus.
Studying the underlying mechanisms by which cells in the lungs control invading organisms and cause tissue inflammation is the subject of the research being carried out by Canada Research Chair Dr. Arnold Kristof. For the last eight years, he has focused on how the lungs and blood vessels respond to severe infection and he uncovered the molecular mechanisms by which individual lung cells activate pro-inflammatory genes in response to bacterial toxins.
Currently, Dr. Kristof's research applies genetic, genomic, and proteomic techniques to define how, when, and where the proteins interact, and to identify which proteins switch on the lung inflammatory response. He is conducting clinical investigations that encompass translational research, genomics, cell information systems, and bioinformatics. He hopes that - by better defining cellular responses to bacterial infection - it will be possible to design drugs that affect specific signalling.
As a critical care and respiratory physician, Dr. Kristof is also conducting research with mechanically ventilated patients to identify new genes and proteins that represent early diagnostic markers of pneumonia. He also hopes to find ways of identifying people who are more susceptible to this kind of infection.