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Research in Immunobiology

Immunology is the study of the immune system that confers protection against infectious diseases. This complex system is also involved in the rejection of grafted tissues, in allergy and in autoimmunity. The Department of Immunobiology at Yale is a multi-disciplinary group of investigators committed to understanding the cellular, genetic and molecular basis of these processes. The Department is based on the understanding that the solution to complex biological problems requires the integration of individuals with a common goal but differing expertise. Research focuses on the molecular, cellular, and genetic underpinnings of immune system function and development, on host-pathogen interactions, and on a variety of autoimmune disorders. In addition to the growing need to apply basic science research towards human disease, we have developed a Human Translational Immunology (HTI) Section to improve our understanding and treatment of human immunological disorders. The general research interests of the Immunology Track span almost all aspects of the immune system and its role in disease prevention. Seven general themes are shown below.

More than thirty laboratories are actively involved in research in immunology. Many share adjoining or nearby laboratory space in The Anlyan Center (TAC), and include faculty that are funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The Department of Immunobiology provides one of the largest integrated training programs in immunology in the country, led by a faculty with a reputation for excellence in research. The Department of Immunobiology maintains a wide variety of major equipment. In addition, investigators have access to a wide variety of cutting edge equipment on campus in open-access core facilities for flow cytometry, mass cytometry, EM, and imaging including lightsheet microscopy and intravital two-photon LSM.

Areas of Research

  • Research in the department examines the fundamentals of the immune system at multiple levels including the receptors and signaling molecules that control these processes, the mechanism by which cells process and present antigen, and the recognition of this antigen by T cell receptors on T lymphocytes.
  • The immune system has evolved to deal with many different challenges, some of which can vary widely among vertebrate species, and thus while many basic mechanisms may be shared between humans and various animal models, the human immune system has evolved to differ in important ways from that of commonly used experimental rodents.
  • The past several years have witnessed a revolution in cancer treatment based on the paradigm of activating a patient’s own immune system to target their cancer.

  • Adaptive immune responses provide powerful long-lived protection from pathogens, but when misdirected, T and B cell responses can cause significant injury and disease.

  • The immune system evolved to manage our constant exposure to diverse microbial stimuli, ranging from the smallest viruses to fifty foot-long tapeworms.

  • Inflammation is a protective response including infection and injury as well as other causes of loss of tissue homeostasis.

  • Computational immunology (or systems immunology) involves the development and application of bioinformatics methods, mathematical models and statistical techniques for the study of immune system biology.