The goal of my translational chlamydia research program is to understand how the adaptive immune response leads to natural clearance of Chlamydia trachomatis (CT) infection in women. Chlamydia, the infection caused by CT, is the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection worldwide and is well associated with development of cervical cancer. Chronic infection is common as CT inhibits apoptotic pathways, which may be one mechanism by which it increases cervical cancer risk. Screening programs have failed to curb rising CT rates; a vaccine is urgently needed. Unfortunately, critical knowledge gaps exists that prevent vaccine development, including a lack in understanding into how the adaptive immune system leads to natural CT clearance (i.e., bacterial clearance [cure] before antibiotics).
In 2018, I received a NIH/NIAID career development award to obtain specialized training in immunology and my research plan involves studying stored peripheral blood mononuclear cells from chlamydia-infected women. Importantly, some of these women demonstrated the ability to naturally clear CT infection. By matching women who did/did not naturally clear CT infection, the aim of my research is to study the role of interferon-gamma-producing CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells, and NK- cells, in mediating natural clearance of CT infection. In order to do this, I will stimulate PBMCs from these women with CT antigens and use intracellular cytokine staining in combination with flow cytometry to distinguish specific cell populations and cytokine production. I will also use flow cytometry to measure NK cell activation and NK cell cytotoxicity by measuring the ability of MHC-1-deficient cells to induce NK cell activation and kill target cells.
The ultimate goal of this research is identify key cell populations and cytokines that are associated with protection against CT infection. These key findings will comprise preliminary data for a large R01 cohort study, which I plan to submit to the NIH in 2021 to further study key T-cell populations that are associated with protection against chlamydia. Membership in the Simon Cancer Center will provide me with the opportunity to conduct my flow cytometry studies and complete my K08-funded translational research, which may lead to development of a chlamydia vaccine and decrease the risk of cervical cancer in women.
Ph.D. - University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 10/2009
Post-doctoral Fellowship - University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 06/2017
Post-doctoral Fellowship - University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 06/2014
Residency - University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 06/2013
Internship - University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 06/2012
M.D. - University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 06/2011