Dr. Andrew Makrigiannis

Dr. Andrew Makrigiannis

Dr. Andrew Makrigiannis

Inflammation, Infection & Immunity, Molly Appeal

Killer instincts:
Dr. Andrew Makrigiannis helps Natural Killer cells destroy harmful targets

Natural Killer (NK) cells are on the frontlines of our immune system, scouting for enemy cells and viruses and killing anything they don’t recognize as safe. “NK cells are covered in receptors that sense the cells around them and determine if they should be slain or spared,” says Dr. Andrew Makrigiannis, Professor and head of the Department of Microbiology & Immunology. “As part of our innate immune system, they provide that crucial protection in the first hours and days after exposure.”

Dr. Makrigiannis and his team have found that NK cells are very diverse—within an individual and from person to person. “NK cells with certain receptors target cancer cells, while NK cells with other receptors go after viruses,” he explains. “And, some people don’t have very strong receptors. Their NK cells do not see, bind with, or destroy their usual targets. These people are highly susceptible to infections and cancers.”

The diversity in NK cell responses opens the door to design immune-boosting therapies to promote strong immune responses. Together with Dr. Jeanette Boudreau, Dr. Makrigiannis is working with experimental models to activate, isolate, clone or transplant NK cells with strong receptors to patients with infections or cancer.

Sophisticated cell analysis equipment — the ImageStreamX Mark II— being purchased through the proceeds of Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation's 2018-19 Fall Molly Appeal is critical to Dr. Makrigiannis’ work. “Without the enhanced cell analysis capacity this equipment provides, the advancement of our work and understanding would not be possible.”

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