The Chougnet Lab is interested in pursuing a research program that is both basic (devoted to unraveling the molecular mechanisms underlying immune dysfunction) as well as translational (aiming towards application of the mechanistic information thereby obtained).
Our major scientific interests are HIV infection and the ontogeny of the human immune system. In addition, due to the many similarities between the immune dysfunction characteristic of chronic progressive HIV infection and that developing during aging, we are developing several research projects on the mechanisms underlying immunosenescence.
A major focus of the laboratory has been to study the homeostasis and function of a critical subset of CD4+ T cells, the regulatory T cells (Treg). Treg are critical to establish and sustain immunological self-tolerance, as well as control aggressive responses to foreign antigens. Importantly, Treg develop very early during the ontogeny of the human infant immune system, and their disappearance and/or dysfunction likely plays a role in several debilitating inflammatory diseases that develop in neonates, particularly in premature babies. Conversely, Treg accumulation during chronic HIV infection or aging plays a role in the immune suppression associated with both processes.