The leading infectious killer in immunocompromised patients with cancer or following transplantation is the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus. While other invasive fungal infections can be more common, Aspergillus fumigatus is clearly the most deadly, the hardest to diagnose, and the hardest to treat. Patients develop invasive aspergillosis (IA) when A. fumigatus conidia (asexual spores) are inhaled and germinate into long tubular cells called hyphae, which are the critical growing and invading structures. A. fumigatus spores are ubiquitous, but those patients with properly functioning immune systems do not develop invasive disease. A. fumigatus also causes chronic disease, which is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality globally. Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) or allergic sinusitis affect countless patients with asthma and other underlying disorders.
Our laboratory focuses on studying the molecular pathogenesis of Aspergillus fumigatus. All of our research is translational in nature and performed with the specific goal of directly improving our fundamental understanding of how and why this organism is so deadly and how to best prevent, diagnose, and treat it. Our laboratory uses a wide variety of molecular genetics tools to delete or mutagenize pathogenesis genes and proteins and subsequently analyze their function and role in disease, including numerous genomic, proteomic, and biochemical approaches. Since we are focused on the pathogenesis and disease, we also utilize numerous different animal models specifically designed to mimic the immune system of a cancer patient or transplant recipient.