Dr. Thomas Issekutz

Dr. Thomas Issekutz

Dr. Thomas Issekutz

Inflammation, Infection & Immunity, Molly Appeal

Immunity sleuth:
Dr. Thomas Issekutz gets to bottom of immune deficiency and autoimmune disorders

Pediatric immunologist Dr. Thomas Issekutz wants to know exactly which immune cells are the culprits behind the autoimmune inflammatory attacks that complicate life for kids with immune deficiencies.

"Immune deficiencies are mysterious... they manifest in some people as repeated infections, while in others we also see autoimmune disorders or cancers," says Dr. Issekutz, a pediatric immunologist and professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at Dalhousie Medical School. "We're learning what immune cells are involved, in what ways, so we can develop and test strategies for boosting the immune response to cancers and infections, while toning down those mechanisms that launch autoimmune inflammatory attacks."

Flow cytometry is central to Dr. Issekutz's efforts to understand immune deficiency and autoimmune disorders in children. He and his colleague, Dr. Beata Derfalvi, are currently using this technology to examine how intravenous immunoglobulin treatments work in children with immune deficiencies complicated by inflammatory autoimmune disease. "We're using flow cytometry to see how the treatment – which is very safe and effective – changes the number and mix of cells and how they are activated," he says.

Dr. Issekutz also leads the flow cytometry portion of a large multi-national study that seeks to discern what immune-system factors allow some people to heal following a heart attack or treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, while others fail to thrive. Dalhousie immunologist, Dr. Jean Marshall, is the principal investigator of this study, which involves collaborators in Finland, Manitoba and California. Other Dalhousie investigators include rheumatologist, Dr. John Hanly, and cardiac surgeon/clinician scientist, Dr. Jean-François Légaré.

Dr. Issekutz is a driving force behind the development of the medical school's sophisticated flow cytometry research facilities. Funds from Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation's 2018-19 Fall Molly Appeal will add further capacity for the continued upgrade and expansion of this crucial facility, used by more than 40 lead investigators and close to 100 staff and students.

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