Dr. Jean Marshall

Dr. Jean Marshall

Dr. Jean Marshall

Inflammation, Infection & Immunity, Molly Appeal

Manipulating immunity:

Immunologist Dr. Jean Marshall is working with colleagues to explore immune modulating strategies for preventing everything from food allergies to certain cancers – starting with something as simple as basic and practical as breastfeeding.

“Studies of peanut allergy have found that babies exposed to peanuts between three and nine months of age were less likely to develop the allergy than those exposed only after weaning,” says Dr. Marshall, a professor in Dalhousie’s Department of Microbiology & Immunology. “This led us to analyze the immune-modulating elements in breast and cow’s milk and launch studies to see if introducing foods while being exposed to milk can help prevent the development of allergies to those foods.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Marshall and colleagues, Dr. Lisa Barrett and Dr. Paola Marignani, discovered that exposure to certain common over-the-counter medications prevents breast cancer in preclinical models of the disease. The researchers will now examine how these medications affect the immune systems of healthy humans, using sophisticated flow cytometry equipment purchased with funds raised through Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation’s 2016-17 Molly Appeal.

This new flow cytometry equipment will also help Dr. Marshall and collaborators in Canada, Finland and the United States learn how some people are able to recover following a heart attack or treatment for rheumatoid arthritis—while others are not.

“We want to learn what’s different in the immune systems of the people who respond well to treatment and heal, versus those who do not,” explains Dr. Marshall, lead researcher of the $2.4 million study. “We will follow over 100 patients with either early rheumatoid arthritis or who have recently had a heart attack for up to two years from the time of their initial treatment, analyzing their immune systems and charting their recovery along the way. This will reveal potential immune targets which could be manipulated to promote healing.”

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