Prof. James Lokensgard, Investigator
The Neuroimmunovirology laboratory is dedicated to understanding both protective and pathogenic neuroimmune responses during viral encephalitis. A number of independent research projects using several neurotropic viruses are currently underway. The first investigates host defense mechanisms against cytomegalovirus (CMV) brain infection. These experiments study how glial cell-produced chemokines recruit peripheral lymphocytes into the brain to control intracerebral viral spread, and are specifically dissecting the critical role of interleukin-10 and perforin-mediated cytotoxic activity.
In additional experiments, we are studying CMV infection of neural stem cells and its effect on their subsequent differentiation. Other projects in the laboratory investigate the immunoregulation of herpes simplex virus (HSV) encephalitis by microglial cells. We are investigating how microglial cell-produced chemokines initiate cascades of neuroimmune responses that result in the serious brain damage seen during herpes encephalitis. We are attempting to modulate these pathogenic neuroimmune responses through the overexpression of anti-inflammatory mediators. We are also investigating HSV-induced production of neurotrophins and studying their role in repair of virus-induced brain damage. Knowledge gained through these studies will increase our basic understanding of virus-induced neuroinflammation and lead us towards our ultimate goal of developing new therapies for devastating viral brain infections.