Jingru Sun working in Lab

Neuroimmunology and Aging

When an organism is infected by a pathogen, defense pathways are rapidly activated by the innate immune system. These defense responses must be tightly controlled to ensure the innate immune response is sufficient to quell the infection but not so overly robust as to cause prolonged inflammation and tissue damage or, in extreme cases, death. It is known that the nervous system interacts with the immune system to regulate the immune response and help maintain immunological homeostasis. Jingru Sun is working to understand the precise mechanisms by which the nervous system regulates innate immunity.  Using the model system C. elegans, her group has discovered multiple neural circuits that regulate the innate immune response to pathogens. They are dissecting these neuroimmune regulatory pathways at molecular and cellular levels to elucidate how neural-immune regulation works.

Yiyong ‘Ben’ Liu is investigating molecular mechanisms that drive the aging process and that may be involved with cancer development. He uses C. elegans and other models to study how organisms may respond to endogenous, as well as environmental, insults such as those that cause infection or DNA damage. It is critical that organisms deploy appropriate stress responses to counter these attacks. Overreacting or underreacting may compromise health and longevity over the long term, thus speeding the aging process or the development of cancer. The research in Liu’s lab focuses on DNA damage responses and immune responses, and how these responses relate to aging and cancer.