The Leung Lab


Time to celebrate


Last week, we went out to Asian Tao to celebrate a few of our team’s recent achievements:

1) We received an R01 award, a 5-year grant from the NIH/NIAID. We will be working in collaboration with scientists at the icddr,b in Dhaka, Bangladesh to examine the role of MAIT cells (our favorite innate-like T cell) in the generation of antibody responses during cholera infection and vaccination. We are trying to address the problem that currently available oral cholera vaccines don’t work as well in young children as in older children and adults, which is likely related to the inability to generate polysaccharide-specific antibody responses in this population. Based on our earlier studies (in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases and Mike’s paper detailed below), we postulate that MAIT cells may provide help to B cells to generate such responses.

2) Cole, our postdoc, received a 2-year spot on the T32 in Genomic Medicine training grant from the NIH/NHGRI. In collaboration with the Rondina lab at the University of Utah, he will focus on the epigenetic and transcriptional events that occur in MAIT cells during the course of human sepsis.

3) Mike, our former postdoc who is now a R&D scientist at ARUP, had his paper published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. In this publication co-authored with Shubhi and Anita, Mike showed in a series of ex vivo experiments that human MAIT cells have the capacity to help B cells differentiate and produce antibodies.

4) Boris, our undergraduate student majoring in material science engineering, received an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) award. He will spend this semester working on a project titled, “Effect of HIV infection on Mucosal Associated Invariant T (MAIT) Cell Plasticity.”

Congratulations to everyone for their achievements!

Anita selected for Travel Award to ASTMH Conference

Congratulations to Anita Iyer, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in our lab, who has been selected to receive an ASTMH (American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene) Annual Meeting Award, supported in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She will receive funding to attend the conference, held November 13-17 in Atlanta, to present her research on immune responses to oral cholera vaccine in internally displaced persons in South Sudan.

UROP awardees present at recent conferences

Congratulations to our Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) recipients for their poster presentations at recent research conferences! Joe Fuell presented a poster on “Immune Response to Native American Antidiarrheals” at the Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research in February (left photo), and Amanda Barrett presented a poster on “Use of Stool Immune Transcriptome to Predict Recurrent Clostridium difficile Infection” at the University of Utah Undergraduate Symposium last week (right photo).

Fuell UCUR poster Barrett URS poster


Leung lab awarded Center for Clinical and Translational Science grant

The Leung lab has been awarded a grant from the University of Utah’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Program in Personalized Health to identify biomarkers for refractory Clostridium difficile infection.

Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) is the most common hospital-associated infection, responsible for an estimated 14,000 deaths a year in the US. While there are established antibiotic treatment regimens for CDI, up to 25% of treated cases relapse or recur. In collaboration with investigators from ARUP Laboratories and Intermountain Healthcare, we will be using cutting-edge genomic techniques to identify those who are at risk of developing recurrence of disease.

Announcement and details of other recipients here:

University of Utah Undergraduate Research Opportunities (UROP) Summer 2015 Grantees

Congratulations to our 3 University of Utah Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) grantees! Amanda, Joe, and Mait all received summer stipends to work on their research projects in our lab.

Amanda  Amanda Barrett
The purpose of my UROP project is to determine if there are transcriptomic predictors for patients with recurrent Clostridium difficile infection (CDI). From stool samples, we will isolate host mRNA and analyze gene expression using RNA sequencing and qPCR. Both types of analysis should aid in comparing genes of interest and compare results between patients with recurring CDI, cured CDI, and a control group.
Joe Joseph Fuell
Hundreds of years before the arrival of Western Medicine to the Salt Lake valley Native American tribes used local herbs to treat digestive problems such as diarrhea, stomach pains, and other intestinal problems.  My project consists of testing various roots and seeds used by Native Americans such as Rosa Woodsi, Grindelia Squarossa, Rumex crispus and Rhus trilobata.  These compounds are being tested for toxicity and activity on human intestinal and immune cells.
Mait Maitland Wiren
The purpose of my UROP project is to study the activation of mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells. It is already known that some riboflavin metabolites activate MAIT cells. I will test to see if molecules produced by other types of disease-causing bacteria activate MAIT cells in a similar way. The overall goal is to get a better understanding of how diarrhea-causing bacteria affect our immune system.