Associate Professor Joseph Sun
My research is focused on the cellular and molecular mechanisms behind immunological memory. Specifically, I am interested in defining the signals that promote cytotoxic CD8+ T cell and Natural Killer (NK) cell proliferation, function, and memory cell formation. I have a background in immunology, with specific training in immune memory and NK cell biology. As a graduate student with Mike Bevan at the University of Washington, my thesis studies involved discerning the role of CD4+ T cell help in the generation of CD8+ T cell memory (Science 2003). In my postdoctoral work with Lewis Lanier at UCSF, I discovered that NK cells possess features of adaptive immunity such as clonal expansion, long-lived memory formation, and recall capacity, even though they have traditionally been categorized as cells of innate immunity (Nature 2009). These findings form the basis of our current research interests, as my lab incorporates transgenic and knockout mice with pathogen and tumor models, to investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms that influence the CD8+ T and NK cell responses. By gaining a better understanding of how these cytolytic arms of the immune system specifically attack virally-infected and cancerous cells, but not healthy cells, we will be able to develop more effective preventative and therapeutic approaches in the battle against infectious diseases and cancer.
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