My laboratory studies viruses and how they dominate their hosts. Viruses are parasites, incapable of reproducing on their own. Thus, to make copies of themselves they have to co-opt host functions, ranging from protein synthesis to DNA or RNA synthesis. Understandably, the infected host is not at all happy about viral infection and has evolved a dense array of tactics to sense and stop virus replication. Viruses constantly evolve to evade these defenses.

This situation sets up a constant battle between the invader (the virus) and the defender (the host). We know that this battle is joined in every viral infection, but since we still get sick, our immune systems are clearly being beaten. Therefore, we need a greater understanding of how viruses overwhelm or disarm the host defenses so that we can develop new antiviral molecules and vaccines that will effectively augment or antiviral defenses

To obtain a picture of how the virus-host interaction works and to identify how we can tip the balance in favor of the host, we ask two basic questions:

1) How do viruses hijack the cells that they infect?

2) How do cells defend themselves against viral infection?

To ask these questions we apply molecular biology, microscopy, biochemistry, genetic, high throughput screening and systems biology approaches. Existing projects in the lab include:

Determining how viruses inactivate cellular signaling networks to both promote their replication and short-circuit the host response

Identifying host responses that block virus infection

Determining the response of the circulating immune system to infection by hemorrhagic fever viruses such as Ebola, Marburg and Lassa fever viruses

See the Research page for more details.

 

Laboratory News:

Connor Lab presentations at Chem-Bio Defense Science and Technology meeting
Sara G, Judy Y, and John attended the November 2011 meeting in Las Vegas. Sara went as a sponsored student speaker and gave a platform presentation in the “Biomarkers” section. Judy and John each presented posters.

Two publications from Ken Dower’s work have been published this year
These include a paper describing Ken’s design and construction of state-of-the-art recombinant viruses expressing multiple fluorescent reporter genes. These viruses are great tools for probing the basic virology of poxviruses and have been very successful at identifying antiviral compounds in small scale screens. Kens second publication describes the discovery and identification of one of these antiviral compounds.

Judy Y and Sara G’s analysis of successful treatment of hemorrhagic fever has been published.

Their work is published in a recent supplemental issue of Journal if Infectious Diseases. View the paper on PubMed

Dr. Connor Speaks at Science For The Public
Watch a video of his recent visit to the Belmont Media Center to give a talk on viruses, how they take over host cells, and new ways of detecting virus infection using cutting-edge photonic technologies.

Connor Altug lab collaboration recognized in multiple publications
Recent work by the Altug and Connor lab investigating new ways of detecting viruses using special light properties has been featured on several websites. http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=19047.php

Ewan Dunn’s publication in the “spotlight”. Dr. Dunn’s recent publication in the Journal of Virology was chosen as a spotlight article by the editors of the journal. Congratulations Ewan!
http://jvi.asm.org/cgi/content/full/85/1/20