The group's main objective is in determining factors which affect T cells in the control of viral infection and in the development of cancer. In addition, we work on the anti-viral restriction factor IFITM3 to establish the mechanism of action of this important protein.

T cells killing cancer cells
T cell (orange) killing a cancer cell (pink)

Human infections, cancer development and the course of disease are mainly influenced by T cell responses.  While a robust and appropriate T cell response is beneficial to the host, a weak or inappropriate response can be ineffective or even have a detrimental effect. Numerous factors influence the quality of the T cell response to viral infections or cancer development, predominant among them being the microenvironment of the infection site, the type of cells affected and in the case of infection, the variability of the virus. By understanding the key factors required for efficient control by the T cell response in a number of different viral infections and viral associated cancers, we aim to identify targets to augment and control the immune response as a way of improving the outcome of in several important human diseases. 

While the Dong group's main focus is T cell responses, a subset of the group focus on the important anti-viral restriction factor IFITM3, which is known to restrict >15 RNA viruses including Influenza A virus, HIV and Hepatitis C virus, however the mechanism of restriction is still unknown.  Little conclusive data on IFITM3 is published due to it's high homology to other IFITM family members. A single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) within IFITM3 is known to prevent it's viral restriction but again the mechanism for this is unknown.  This interesting protein leaves us with several unanswered questions and we aim to characterise this protein using novel reagents in order to elucidate the mechanism by which viral restriction occurs.  

 

As a group our current research programme aims to:

  • Characterise IFITM3 protein
  • Determine the mechanism of viral restriction by IFITM3 
  • Define the impact of IFTIM3 genetic variation on Influenza, HCV and HIV virus infection, immune responses and disease outcome
  • Study the Viral OncoProtein (VOP) and Tumour Specific Protein (TSP) specific T cell responses in virus associated cancers 
  • Identify the factors determining functional avidity and anti-viral & -cancer efficacy of antigen specific T cells 

Dong Lab Members

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