NEWS | December 21, 2017

New grant funds study of immune cell activity in stem cell transplantation

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.)

A team of UC Davis investigators has been awarded a $1.2 million grant to examine a common virus and its effects on immune system function after stem cell transplantation.

William Murphy William Murphy

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute grant, $300,000 per year for four years, will fund a multi-disciplinary team of researchers led by William Murphy, professor and vice chair for research in the Departments of Dermatology and Internal Medicine.

Specifically, the researchers will study cytomegalovirus, or CMV, which infects more than half of all adults in the U.S. The virus is latent in most adults because it is suppressed by the immune system.  After hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma, however, the virus reactivates and can cause significant illness unless it is treated. Paradoxically, research also has shown that activation of CMV promotes natural killer (NK) immune cells, which can aid in the immune system’s fight against leukemia.

For their project the researchers will examine the impact of CMV on the NK cells using both mouse and non-human primate models of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, with hopes of learning how NK cells can be activated against cancer.

Other researchers include Alice Tarantal, professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Cell Biology and Human Anatomy; Peter Barry, professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Dennis Hartigan-O’Connor, associate professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology; and Robert Canter, associate professor in the Department of Surgery.