Thomas R. Hawn, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Medicine and Allergy & Infectious Diseases
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We are investigating immunologic mechanisms of disease pathogenesis, with an emphasis on genetic, cellular, and molecular studies of the innate immune response. These studies are directed toward understanding why individuals have different susceptibility to infections and whether these insights can lead to novel treatment and vaccine strategies. We are using several approaches to understand this question. First, we are pursuing case-control human genetic studies to find associations of polymorphisms in innate immune response genes with disease susceptibility. Second, we are using ex vivo and in vitro immunologic, cellular and molecular assays to understand how these genes and their variants mediate a protective immune response. Finally, we are complementing these studies with in vivo infection models in mice with targeted gene deletions to elucidate mechanisms of disease pathogenesis. We are using these methods to study the pulmonary innate immune response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Legionella pneumophila. In addition, we are examining susceptibility to Mycobacterium leprae. We are comparing and contrasting the host immune response to these different pathogens to gain a better understanding of immunogenetics and human susceptibility to infections.