Alan Sher, Ph.D. Chief, Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, NIAID, Bethesda, USA
Dr. Sher receives the 2017 ICIS-Biolegend William E. Paul Award for dening the role of Th1/Th2 cytokines in parasite infection models. At the same time Sher and his colleagues helped dene the regulatory pathways which prevent immunopathology in polarized anti-parasitic responses and in particular elucidating the role of Interleukin-10 induction in that process. In more recent work, the Sher lab has dened the cytokine and eicosanoid pathways regulating host resistance to Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Learning cytokine function from the host-pathogen encounter, Alan Sher NIH / NIAID, Bethesda, United States
The discovery of essential roles for cytokines in host defense against pathogens has been one of the major drivers of research in the general field of cytokine biology. In addition to generating new therapeutic interventions in infectious disease, this work has led to important insights into the organization of the immune system. Indeed, the production of specific cytokines mediating control of defined phylogenetic classes of microbial invaders, has become a major functional criterion in the definition of both T lymphocyte and myeloid subsets. At the same time the elucidation of the regulatory activities of cytokines in protecting against infection driven immunopathology has contributed to our understanding of the functions of the same mediators in tissue repair and homeostasis. While identifying a plethora of potential targets for disease intervention, research on the host-pathogen interaction has at the same time uncovered a complex web in which cytokines can serve as either “friend” or “foe” depending on the context of their activities. Deciphering this web and its underlying principles has become a major challenge in the development of new cytokine-based therapies. In my talk, I will discuss some of the contributions of our laboratory in the use of parasite and mycobacterial infection models to understanding cytokine function and highlight fundamental questions and debates that my colleagues and I have encountered during our three decade journey in the field. This work was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health, NIH.