There are a number of organs in the body that are relatively protected from immune attack; these include the brain and the eye. These organs are conferred a status of immune privilege. Dr Curnow’s research group are interested in studying the mechanisms that control immune responses within these tissues, and more importantly study disease where the privileged status of the tissue has been compromised.
The central nervous system is relatively protected from damaging inflammation. However in patients with multiple sclerosis there is a destructive inflammatory process with many pathogenic lymphocytes entering the central nervous system. Dr Curnow’s group are currently studying these cells to determine which are specific to this disease and how they relate to clinical progression. They study the two arms of the adaptive immune system, T and B cells. Their work has already demonstrated that the B cell response can be readily identified in the cerebrospinal fluid (Hassan-Smith 2014), even in patients with very early disease. This has led them to study the immune response in the early phases of disease in more detail, in an attempt to uncover the trigger that leads to the development of MS.
Uveitis (inflammation in the eye)
For patients with uveitis the degree of protection afforded to the eye appears to have failed and they can develop sight-threatening inflammation. Dr Curnow’s research has identified a number of pathways that are defective or have been overwhelmed in the eye of patients with uveitis, resulting in the observed inflammation (Denniston 2012, Denniston 2011, Curnow 2004).