Iyer, Shankar S.

Shankar is a third year trainee and is in the Molecular Biology IDP.  His research mentor is Dr. Genhong Cheng.  He received a B.A. degree in 2007 from Cornell University.

Mentor: Dr. Genhong Cheng

Research project:

A fundamental aspect of host defense is the ability to recognize and distinguish between myriad infectious agents.  With respect to innate immunity, this specificity is dictated largely via the activity of toll like receptors (TLRs).  Differential stimulation through distinct TLRs enables host cells to resolve pathogenesis by activating gene networks specifically designed to contain and eliminate the foreign pathogen.  While these discrete inflammatory pathways have been studied extensively, little is known about how multiple signaling pathways interact in order to generate an appropriate immune response.  Elucidating the mechanisms that govern this crosstalk and their ramifications on the expression of synergistic gene networks is essential to our understanding of immune surveillance. The interaction between competing inflammatory pathways is particularly relevant for the onset of influenza pneumonia. 

Influenza pneumonia is the leading cause of infection-related deaths and the 8th overall cause of death annually, contributing nearly 60,000 deaths in the United States alone in 2004.   While sensitization to secondary bacterial pneumonias after infection by the influenza virus has been well documented, little is known about the mechanisms responsible for this phenomenon.  The goal of my work in the Cheng lab is to identify the factors and molecular events that contribute to viral induced immuno-suppression.  In this manner, I hope to contribute to our understanding of the crosstalk between anti-viral and anti-microbial response pathways.  Ultimately my work could have important consequences for identifying potential therapeutic targets for treating and preventing the onset of influenza pneumonia.