Ph.D. Microbiology University of Rome "La Sapienza", Italy 1987
The cells of the immune system work together as an exceptionally coordinated team to control the many external and internal factors that lead to development of disease. As we change and adapt to new circumstances using our accumulated experiences, so does the immune system. Many characteristics of each single cell, the type of cell-to-cell communication and the level of coordination among the various cells continually change, resulting in the reshaping of the team’s organization and efforts. In our laboratory, we design and carry out research projects with the goal of understanding how the immune system adapts and responds to changes caused by infections, vaccine administrations, and increasing age. Our model systems consist of mice and nonhuman primates, including macaques and baboons, as well as antigens derived from Mycobacterium tuberculosis and the human immunodeficiency virus. By using animals that belong to all age groups, we assess how increasing age correlates with the reshaping of the immune response and, therefore, with different responses to vaccines. Using nonhuman primate models, we also carry out studies designed to understand how the immunoglobulin gene pool evolves within a species.