Viral Hepatitis Laboratory
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is a preferential “Asian affair”; of the 350 million people suffering from chronic HBV infection worldwide, approximately 75% are in Asia.
Our laboratory focuses on understanding how HBV infection evades or triggers the host-immunity that causes viral control and/or liver inflammation.
These immune mechanisms are preferentially studied in patient’s samples directly (peripheral blood and liver biopsies), obtained with active collaborations with different clinical groups but we are also using animal models like human-chimeric SCID mouse reconstituted with human hepatocytes and immune cells that mimics HBV infection.
Our major projects are focused on:
a) Understanding the mechanism of HBV vertical infection (mother to child) and the impact that HBV infection exert on the maturation of the host immune system;
b) Re-defining the function of T cells in the liver environment and characterize the molecular mechanisms responsible for T cell exhaustion in patients with different clinical and virological profile of the disease.
The laboratory is also actively developing strategies to restore HBV-specific immunity in chronic HBV patients or to increase the bioavailability of cytokines/drugs into infected hepatocytes.
Selection of virus-specific CD8 T cells from patients allows isolation of their T cell receptors that are then used to engineer TCR-redirected T cells.
Monoclonal antibodies targeting HBV peptide/MHC complexes on HBV infected hepatocytes (TCR-like antibodies) are also produced. These reagents represent an invaluable tool to elucidate the immunological and virological features of HBV infected cells and are explored as a novel therapeutic platform for personalized health care of HBV infected patients.
1. National Medical Research Council (NMRC)
2. Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star)