Mold-associated exposures have become a serious concern in post-flooding and post-hurricane situations, as well as in chronically damp indoor environments and environmental exposures. Aspergillus fumigatus is a ubiquitous fungal species that is rapidly cleared by an immunocompetent person but can be life-threatening in persons whose immune system is compromised as a result of disease or drug therapy. Moreover, repeated exposures to high doses of the fungus can exacerbate respiratory allergies. This property is partially attributed to the secreted proteases of the fungus that interact with the host cells. My doctoral dissertation research is focused on dissecting the cellular and molecular mechanisms of acute and chronic host immune response that helps to distinguish if the inhaled fungus poses a threat (Invasive Aspergillosis), acts as an allergen (Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis), or is an innocuous antigen (dead fungal spores). Towards this end, I am looking at the histological, cellular, and molecular differences in the immune system’s response: 1) to the inhalation of dead vs. live fungal spores and 2) in fungal clearance from an immunocompetent host or one that has an altered response due to drug delivery.
Personally, I thoroughly enjoy each day in the lab as I work towards answering a new research question or perfecting a histological, cellular, molecular, or an analytical technique. It provides me with immense pride and satisfaction that ongoing research in this area is expected to aid in understanding the mechanisms involved and therapeutics available for the treatment of mold-associated diseases.