• Allergy/Asthma

    These disease processes represent altered reactions or over-reactions of the body's immune system to environmental antigens or conditions. In many cases, there likely is a genetic component to the predisposition to risk  of allergy or asthma (wheezing). Scientists in the VVC are studying the complex interactions between environmental stimuli (such as allergens), genetic factors, and respiratory viruses like flu, RSV, and HMPV. Investigators are conducting large scale human studies and smaller, more mechanistic studies in animal models, to understand the molecular and cellular basis for these disease processes. Understanding the causes of these diseases could lead to new strategies for prevention or treatment.


    Immunity to HIV-1 infection is complex. TO date, scientists have been frustrated in finding broad and potent mechanisms of immunity that protect against infection or the progression to AIDS after infection. Recent exciting studies from experimental vaccine trials and basic immunology studies, however, suggest that at least partially effective immunity is possible. Vanderbilt investigators study experimental HIV vaccines in the clinic, and several VVC scientists are using samples obtained during these trials or during natural infection to determine the molecular basis for neutralization (killing) of HIV.

  • Immune Repertoires

    The cells of the adaptive immune system (T and B cells) recognize foreign antigens by interaction with cell surface receptors encoded by variable genes. Several gene segments (designated variable, diversity, and joining genes) are recombined to form the individual genes that encode antibodies or T cell receptors. VVC scientists are developing innovative techniques for exploring the collections (repertoires) of expressed genes in humans. The work involves next generation sequence analysis, bioinformatics techniques, and molecular modeling approaches. 

  • Transplantation

    Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is a life saving intervention in many conditions, especially in recovery from many cancers. Transplantation carries a number of risks, however, since a person's immune system is essentially replaced by the transplant. The cells, typically obtained from a healthy donor, can react against the recipient, a process called graft versus host disease (GVHD). That disease process is often managed medically by immunosuppressive drug treatment, but the immune system itself can protect against adverse responses by suppressing immune reactions, through the action of specialized cells called T regulatory cells. These cells also appear to regulate other important processes after transplantation, such as post transplantation diabetes mellitus. Scientists in the VVC are studying the  biology of T regulatory cells in the setting of transplantation.