Research Interest

The objective of our laboratory is to characterize and define acquired and innate immune responses; investigate the mechanisms underlying the regulation of those responses; explore the mechanisms by which those responses contribute to inflammatory diseases; and determine means by which those responses can be specifically manipulated. The studies and research interests of Dr. Akbari’s laboratory can be categorized into the following major areas:

T cell subsets, costimulatory molecule and immunoregulation of diseases

We are interested in the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the development and function of T-cell subsets that produce different cytokines and are involved in immunization (vaccination) and inflammation.

Immunology of Cancer: Targeting immune system and costimulatory molecules to improve anti-tumor immunity

Dr. Akbari’s lab actively studies immune cells in the tumor microenvironment, focusing on their recruitment, effector functions, and metabolomics. In a recent publication, our lab members demonstrated how PD-1 therapy affects innate cells in melanoma, leading them to acquire an anti-cancer phenotype. In another approach, Dr. Akbari’s lab engineered immune cells against cancer cells that do not rely on glycolysis but depend on oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS). These cells are better able to survive and exert their effector functions in the tumor microenvironment. These metabolomics studies have applications in designing novel CAR-T cells and T cells that specifically recognize neo-antigens, two active projects with great progress in the lab.

Role of innate lymphoid cells in allergic lung inflammation and metabolic diseases

We intend to explore how type 2 responses are initiated, potentiated and maintained, focusing on group 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2 cells) and their interactions with other innate and adaptive cells in the context of type 2 diabetes, asthma, and lung inflammation.

Role of metabolic pathways and autophagy in immune cell activation and inflammation

We investigate the effects of immune cells on organs that regulate metabolism, including adipose tissue and liver. More importantly, we explore the role of metabolic pathways and autophagy within immune cells and explore how metabolic pathways modulate the immune response.

Respiratory tolerance and regulatory T cells

Respiratory tolerance is a state of immunological non-responsiveness induced by exposure to innocuous antigens inhaled in the respiratory tract. Understanding the pathways involved in the induction and maintenance of respiratory tolerance to airborne allergens is important in designing new therapies for asthma and other allergic diseases. Respiratory tolerance, and mucosal immunity are maintained by complex immune mechanisms including deletion, anergy, or induction of regulatory T cells. we are interested in exploring those immune mechanism with the idea to develop strategies to induce mucosal and respiratory tolerance, particularly among patients with established lung inflammation.

Mechanism for lung inflammation and ARDS

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) is a form of severe hypoxemic respiratory failure characterized by inflammatory injury to the lungs. We developed many platforms to understand the pathophysiology of ARDS, offering unique opportunities to identify new targets for intervention.