I am currently working in an immunology lab with Dr. Michal Olszewski try to better understand how a certain fungus, C. neoformans affects humans and how to be able to treat the pathogen in better ways. C. neoformans is found everywhere in the environment and certainly everyone has come in contact with it. The immune systems of most people are strong enough to deal with the pathogen, however people that are immunocompromised are not able to clear the pathogen before it reaches vital organs. When people are not able to get rid of the pathogen it travels from the lungs to the blood stream, where it settles in the brain. Once in the brain, treating the pathogen is very difficult, because of the blood-brain barrier.
In the first few weeks of my internship, I have continued my research where I left off in the Winter term. In the Winter term my lab was able to find a gene that showed promising results. We found out that this gene caused the recruitment of the immune cells that fight the fungus, but also cause the inflammation the host experiences. Putting all the data together we found out that the mice that did not have the gene were not able to express these cells. These mice were not able to remove the fungus but they were living longer than the mice that were able to remove the fungus. This lead us to believe the the cells that were removing the fungus were also killing the mice a lot faster.
In the summer we are currently doing another survival test to see if it correlates with the past results. There are also other experiments going on in the lab as well. Some involve cell transfusions to see the effects of moving cells to fight the pathogen without expressing the gene. Another involves testing different strains to see if one could potentially become a vaccine one day. Finally, another experiment involves using an anti-fungal drug on mice with different genetic make-up to see if there are any differences.
I am very excited to be working in this lab since I know the basics and I can actually help out with the science. I feel very comfortable in my lab knowing I am contributing to society in better understanding a pathogen that is not studied, because it is overlooked. I will keep working on all the experiments I have mentioned and if there are any intriguing results I will make sure to post them.