Congratulations to Dr. Megan Levings on receiving CIHR Foundation Grant to study Tregs and immune to
We are very pleased to announce that Dr. Megan Levings, Investigator at BC Children's Hospital Research Institute and CNTRP Project 4 Lead, recently received a CIHR Foundation Grant in the 2016-2017 competition.
Megan's grant, entitled Molecular and cellular biology of T regulatory cells, will allow her lab to explore how T regulatory cells can impact graft rejection and induce immune tolerance in transplant recipients. This work is directly linked with the CNTRP Project 4 and we look forward to supporting Megan and her team as they continue to pursue this exciting research.
Only 63 Foundation Grants out of the 600 applications received to the competition were awarded to mid-career and senior investigators. You can see all the results of the CIHR Foundation Grant competition here: http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/50488.html
The goal of my research is to understand how our immune system regulates itself and to use this information to develop new ways to treat patients with immune-related diseases, such as autoimmunity or transplant rejection. A healthy immune system must strike a balance between attacking infectious or dangerous substances while not reacting to our own cells and tissues. This delicate balancing act is called immune tolerance. Both autoimmune diseases and transplant complications are caused by disrupted immune tolerance. At present, immunosuppressive drugs are our only treatment for these conditions. Yet these drugs suppress all immune responses, putting patients at risk of infection and cancer, often without controlling their disease. We need to find better ways to prevent harmful immune responses. I am an expert is the study of a type of white blood cell called T regulatory cells, or Tregs, which coordinate immune responses and maintain immune tolerance. My work has defined how Tregs develop and function, and led to clinical trials to test use of Tregs as a cell therapy in transplantation and autoimmunity. I developed methods to monitor the presence of Tregs in blood and tissues, allowing more precise measurement of immune tolerance. If used as a treatment, Tregs could control pathological immune responses without altering healthy immune balance. Towards this aim, the next stage of my research has 3 goals, to: 1) create "designer" Tregs that are engineered to be active only in the presence of a transplant and test their ability to prevent transplant rejection and preserve normal immunity; 2) design new ways to alter Tregs so their function is tailored to specific disease contexts; and 3) identify biological pathways that regulate Tregs, so that they can be targeted for new treatment options. My research will enable new Treg-based therapies to prevent and treat the many chronic diseases that are caused by a failure of immune tolerance.