Faculty Database:
[Research Interest: Virology]

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NameEmailPhd ProgramResearch InterestsPublications
Amelio, Antonio L. email , , , , , , , publications

Our laboratory is broadly interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms of transcriptional regulation by cell signaling pathways and the role of pathway cross-talk in cancer biology. In particular, the cAMP signaling cascade directs adaptive cellular responses to a variety of stress stimuli via a combination of acute affects arising from GS-protein coupled receptor (GPCR)-mediated activation of PKA and long-term affects resulting from transcriptional reprogramming directed by CREB and the CREB Regulated Transcription Coactivators (CTRCs). We are applying an interdisciplinary approach to study the consequences of aberrant activation of the cAMP/CREB/CRTC signal circuit on these adaptive responses and how cooperative signaling with other pathways promotes oncogenic processes in oral, head, and neck cancers.

Asokan, Aravind email , , , , , publications

Our research group is focused on combining the tools and principles of molecular biology and genetics with chemistry to generate a synthetic viral toolkit. The lab-derived synthetic viral entities are utilized to dissect mechanisms of viral tissue tropism, as new reagents for applications in genomics and proteomics and as new vectors for human gene therapy applications.

Beck, Melinda A. email , , publications

My laboratory studies the relationship between host nutrition and the immune response to infectious disease. Using a mouse model of obesity, we are exploring the mechanism(s) for high mortality from influenza infection in obese mice compared with lean mice. We also have an ongoing clinical research study designed to understand the mechanism(s) involved that impair the influenza vaccine response in obese adults compared with healthy weight adults. We have also demonstrated that host deficiencies in antioxidant nutrients can lead to viral mutations resulting in an avirulent pathogen becoming virulent, suggesting that the host nutritional status can be a driving force for the evolution of viruses.

Burch, Christina email , , , , , publications

Experimental Evolution of Viruses.  We use both computational and experimental approaches to understand how viruses adapt to their host environment.  Our research attempts to determine how genome complexity constrains adaptation, and how virus ecology and genetics interact to determine whether a virus will shift to utilizing new host.  In addition, we are trying to develop a framework for predicting which virus genes will contribute to adaptation in particular ecological scenarios such as frequent co-infection of hosts by multiple virus strains.  For more information, and for advice on applying to graduate school at UNC, check out my lab website www.unc.edu/~cburch/lab.

Damania, Blossom email , , , , , publications

The work in our laboratory is focused on understanding the molecular pathogenesis of Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), an oncogenic human virus. KSHV is associated with several types of cancer in the human population. We study the effect of KSHV viral proteins on cell proliferation, transformation, apoptosis, angiogenesis and cell signal transduction pathways. We also study viral transcription factors, viral replication, and the interactions of KSHV with the human innate immune system. Additionally, we are developing drug therapies that curb viral replication and target tumor cells.

Dittmer, Dirk email , , , , , publications

Our lab tries to understand viral pathogenesis. To do so, we work with two very different viruses – West Nile Virus (WNV) and Kaposi¹s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV/HHV-8).

Garcia-Martinez, J. Victor email , , , , publications

Over millions of years of coexistence humans and pathogens have develop intricate and very intimate relationships.  These highly specialized interactions are the basic determinants of pathogenesis and disease progression.  Our laboratory is interested in elucidating the molecular basis of disease.  Our multidisciplinary approach to molecular medicine is based on our interest in the translation of basic research observations into clinical implementation.  For this purpose we use a variety of in vitro and in vivo approaches to study AIDS, Cancer, immunological diseases, gene therapy, etc.  Of particular interest is the use of state of the art models such as humanized mice to study human specific pathogens like HIV, EBV, Kaposiâ’s sarcoma, influenza, xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus.  In addition, we are interested in the development and implementation of novel approaches to prevent viral transmission using pre-expossure prophylaxis and vaccines.

Goonetilleke, Nilu email , , publications

We are a human immunology lab focusing on all aspects of T cell immunobiology in HIV-1 infection. Studies range from basic questions like, ‘What are the determinants of the first T cell response following infection?’ to translational challenges such as ‘What is the best design for a T cell vaccine to either prevent infection or achieve HIV-1 cure?’

Keywords: T cells, HIV-1, Escape, CD8 T cells, Vaccines, Cure, Vaccines

Gray, Steven email , , , , publications

My core expertise is in adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene therapy vector engineering, followed by optimizing approaches to deliver a gene to the central and peripheral nervous system.  As reagents have been developed to achieve global and efficient nervous system gene transfer, my research focus has also included preclinical studies to apply these reagents toward the treatment of neurological and ocular diseases.  Currently these include Rett Syndrome, Giant Axonal Neuropathy, Tay-Sachs, Krabbe, Batten Disease (INCL and LINCL), and AGU.  My ongoing research focuses on 1) continued development and optimization of AAV vectors specifically tailored toward neurologic and ophthalmologic disorders 2) testing novel gene therapy approaches for applicable disorders, and 3) facilitating the translation of these approaches from bench to clinic.

I am a member of the UNC Gene Therapy Center, Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, and Department of Ophthalmology.  My lab has several strong partnerships with patient and rare disease advocacy groups. A major accomplishment from my lab is that we independently developed a gene therapy approach to treat Giant Axonal Neuropathy, which is in clinical testing at the NIH Clinical Center (https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02362438).

Griffith, Jack email , , , , , , publications

We are interested in basic DNA-protein interactions as related to – DNA replication, DNA repair and telomere function.  We utilize a combination of state of the art molecular and biochemical methods together with high resolution electron microscopes.

Heise, Mark email , , , , , publications

We study alphavirus infection to model virus-induced disease.  Projects include 1) mapping viral determinants involved in encephalitis, and 2) using a mouse model of virus-induced arthritis to identify viral and host factors associated with disease.

Jaspers, Ilona email , , , , , publications

Research in my lab focuses on the mechanisms by which exposure to air pollutants alters respiratory immune responses and modifies susceptibility to and the severity of respiratory virus infections. Specifically, we are examining the effects of air pollutants such as ozone, woodsmoke and tobacco product exposures on host defense responses and influenza virus infections, using several in vitro models of the respiratory epithelium. In collaboration with physician scientists, we are also translating these studies into humans in vivo.

Kafri, Tal email , , , , publications

Our lab is focused on the development of HIV-1 vectors for gene therapy of genetic disease.  In addition, we are using the vector system to study HIV-1 biology.  We are also interested in utilizing the HIV-1 vector system for functional genomics.

Lazear, Helen email , , , publications

We use molecular virology approaches and mouse models of infection to understand innate immune mechanisms that control arbovirus pathogenesis (e.g. West Nile, Zika, and La Crosse viruses). Bat flaviviruses have unusual vector/host relationships; understanding the viral and host factors that determine flavivirus host range is important for recognizing potential emerging infections. We are studying the antiviral effects of interferon lambda (IFN-λ) at barrier surfaces, including the blood-brain barrier and the skin. We also use mouse models of atopic dermatitis and herpes simplex virus infection to understand the effects of IFN- λ in the skin. (Accepting rotation students for spring 2016)

Lentz, Barry email , , , , publications

The regulatory role of platelet membrane phosphatidylserine in blood coagulation; mechanism of protein-mediated membrane fusion in secretory processes and virus infection.  Director of the Molecular & Cellular Biophysics Training Program.

Margolis, David email , , , , publications

The overall goal of our laboratory is to obtain new insights into the host-virus interaction, particularly in HIV infection, and translate discoveries in molecular biology and virology to the clinic to aid in the treatment of HIV infection. A subpopulation of HIV-infected lymphocytes is able to avoid viral or immune cytolysis and return to the resting state. Current work focuses on the molecular mechanisms that control the latent reservoir of HIV infection within resting T cells. We have found that cellular transcription factors widely distributed in lymphocytes can remodel chromatin and maintain quiescence of the HIV genome in resting CD4+ lymphocytes. These studies give insight into the basic molecular mechanisms of eukaryotic gene expression, as well as new therapeutic approaches for HIV infection.

Martinez, Jennifer email , , , , , publications

The focus of the work in the Martinez lab is to examine the non-canonical roles for the autophagy machinery during inflammation.  Our recent work about LC3-associated phagocytosis (LAP) higlights the importance of this non-canonical autophagic process in maintaining tolerance and preventing unwanted autoinflammatory pathologies.

Meeker, Rick email , , , , publications

Dr. Meeker’s research is focused on the mechanisms of HIV neuropathogenesis and the development of therapeutic strategies for the treatment of neuroinflammation. Inflammatory changes within the brain caused by the viral infection initiate a toxic cascade that disrupts normal neural function and can eventually lead to neuronal death. To explore the mechanisms responsible for this damage, we investigate changes in calcium homeostasis, glutamate receptor function and inflammatory responses in primary neuronal, microglial and macrophage cultures. New therapeutic approaches targeted to signal transduction pathways and calcium regulation that protect the neurons and reduce inflammation are under investigation.

Moody, Cary email , , , , publications

The work in my laboratory focuses on the molecular biology of human papillomaviruses (HPV), small DNA viruses that exhibit epithelial tropism. Certain types of HPV are considered the causative agents of cervical cancer and are also associated with cancers of the anus, oropharynx and esophagus.  My lab is interested in defining mechanisms that regulate the productive phase of the HPV life cycle, which is restricted to differentiating epithelia and includes viral genome amplification, late gene expression and virion production. Using various methods of epithelial differentiation, we are studying how HPV proteins modulate cell signaling pathways, including the DNA damage response and apoptosis, to facilitate viral replication, which in turn contributes to viral pathogenesis and possibly transformation. I will be accepting rotation students beginning in the winter of 2010.

Moorman, Nat email , , , , publications

How does a virus gain control over the host cell? My laboratory is interested in answering this question at the molecular level. By combining molecular biology and virology with new technologies (e.g. mass spectrometry, next generation sequencing), we investigate the mechanisms utilized by viruses to hijack infected cells. By understanding the specific function(s) of viral proteins during infection, we identify strategies used by viruses for deregulation of host cell processes. We use this information to characterize novel features of cell signaling pathways during infection, and to identify potential targets for anti-viral therapeutics.

Pickles, Raymond J. email , , , publications

My laboratory, located in the Cystic Fibrosis/Pulmonary Research and Treatment Center in the Thurston-Bowles building at UNC, is interested in how respiratory viruses infect the airway epithelium of the conducting airways of the human lung.

Samulski, Jude email , , , , , publications

We are engaged in studying the molecular biology of the human parvovirus adeno-associated virus (AAV) with the intent to using this virus for developing a novel, safe, and efficient delivery system for human gene therapy.

Su, Lishan email , , , , , , , publications

Major areas of research: 1) HIV-1 Virology, Immuno-Pathology and Immuno-Therapy, 2) HBV Virology, Immuno-Pathology and Immuno-Therapy, 3) Novel Immune Therapeutics Including Adjuvants and Vaccines, and 4) Humanized Mouse Models of Human Liver and Immune System.  My laboratory studies both virology and immunology of HIV-1 and HBV persistent infection.  We focus on defining viral factors that counteract host innate anti-viral immunity.  We have also developed humanized mouse models to study human immuno-pathology of chronic HIV-1 and HBV infection in vivo.  We investigate how human immune cells are dysregulated and contribute to diseases during HIV-1 and HBV persistent infection.  We are currently focused on the HIV-1/pDC/IFN-I axis that plays a critical role in HIV-1 persistence and AIDS, and on the HBV/Macrophage interaction in liver diseases.  In addition, we are developing novel immune modulatory therapeutics including antibodies, adjuvants and vaccines.

Swanstrom, Ronald email , , , , , , publications

First, we study the complex HIV-1 population that exists within a person.  We use this complexity to ask questions about viral evolution, transmission, compartmentalization, and pathogenesis.  Second, we are exploring the impact of drug resistance on viral fitness and identifying new drug targets in the viral protein processing pathway.  Third, we participate in a collaborative effort to develop an HIV-1 vaccine.  Fourth, we are using mutagenesis to determine the role of RNA secondary structure in viral replication.

Tidwell, Richard R email , , , publications

Dr. Tidwell’s research is focused on the design and synthesis of new drugs for the treatment of AIDS-associated opportunistic infections.  The rationale for design of new drugs is directed at determining the mechanisms of action, antimicrobial activity, and pharmacokinetics of dicationic molecules.  Studies have been initiated to isolate and identify new drug targets from Pneumocystis carinii and Cryptosporidium parvum utilizing molecular modeling and biochemical methods to aid in the determination of new structures.  The role of proteases and imidazoline receptors in the pathogenesis of disease continues to be a major area of research as well as a new prodrug approach for the cationic molecules to allow for much improved bioavailability.

Webster-Cyriaque, Jennifer email , , publications

A goal of the laboratory is to understand viral molecular pathogenesis in the oral cavity. We seek to understand the critical molecular interactions that occur between DNA viruses and the host that govern the development of oral disease.

Weeks, Kevin email , , , , , , publications

The Weeks group invents novel chemical microscopes for understanding the structure and function of RNA and then applies these technologies to leading, and previously intractable, problems in biology. Most projects in the laboratory span fundamental chemistry or technology development and ultimately lead to practical applications in virology (especially HIV), next-generation structure analysis, drug design, and understanding RNA structure in living cells.  Collectively, this work has led to extensive recognition of graduate student colleagues in the laboratory.

Whitmire, Jason email , , publications

The Whitmire lab investigates how the adaptive immune system protects against virus infection.  The research is focused on understanding the mechanisms by which interferons, cytokines, and other accessory molecules regulate T cell numbers and functions following acute and chronic virus infections.  The goal is to identify and characterize the processes that differentiate memory T cells in vivo. The long-term objective is to develop strategies that improve vaccines against infectious diseases by manipulating these pathways.

Xiao, Xiao email , , , , publications

Xiao lab is interested in molecular medicine, specifically, gene delivery and therapy for various genetic and acquired diseases. The lab genetically engineers a non-pathogenic and defective DNA virus, named adeno-associate virus (AAV). The engineered AAV has all of its own genes gutted and replaced by our own genes of interests. As a result, the 22-nanometer AAV particles now serve as tiny FedEx/UPS trucks to deliver therapeutic genes to a variety of cells, tissues and even the whole body. Besides its superb efficiency, AAV also offers an excellent safety profile. For example, Xiao lab has developed AAV vectors to treat diseases like muscular dystrophies, heart failure, diabetes, arthritis, hepatitis and cancer, etc. A first of its kind gene therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a lethal childhood genetic disease, is in a phase I clinical trial.  In addition to gene delivery for therapeutic purposes, AAV can also be used as a powerful tool to study basic biology such as molecular genetics, signal transduction, apoptosis, mechanisms of pathogenesis and even the engineering of animal models. For example, AAV vectors can be used to deliver protein-encoding genes, antisense RNA, small interference RNA (siRNA) or microRNA to tissues like the muscle, heart, liver, pancreas, kidney, lung, brain and spinal cord, etc., to over-express, up-regulate or knockdown a gene or multiple genes for the purposes of dissecting particular molecular pathways, biological functions and immunology consequences and even creating disease models.