Research efforts of the Immunology Research Lab focus on the study of infectious and inflammatory diseases affecting Nemours Children's patient populations. The lab's approach to these investigations emphasizes the role of the immune system as both an effector/modulator and as an indicator of disease in these disorders.
Paul T. Fawcett, PhD, has been the head of the research and clinical immunology laboratories since 1986. In addition, he serves as Chair of the IACUC and is a member of the IRB.
Current Research Group
Nemours Children’s Hospital, Delaware
1600 Rockland Road
Wilmington, DE 19803
The lab is dedicated to investigations that are based upon current patient-related needs of clinical divisions. Current areas of study (gastroenterology and rheumatology) were identified in response to the need for improved ability to diagnose and formulate a prognosis for related diseases. Several gastrointestinal and rheumatic diseases are associated with profound degradation in the quality of life for affected patients. Furthermore, the mechanisms of disease induction and perpetuation for these infectious and inflammatory disorders have not yet been determined. It is in this latter area that the lab’s research expertise can provide significant improvement in patient care.
The unique union of the clinical and research labs in immunology ensures that research efforts are directly relevant to patient care for the Nemours patient population. The lab currently provides immunodiagnostic testing services for several medical divisions. Available tests include assays for autoantibodies and for infectious diseases. The lab is currently working to develop the capability to test for cell markers that could be useful diagnostically and in formulating a prognosis for several diseases.
The primary focus of our research during the preceding year involved investigations on the cellular mechanisms responsible for inflammatory joint diseases. These studies are being conducted in collaborations with the research department CET lab and physicians at the Wilmington campus. We have developed a series of in-vitro culture techniques and serologic assays that enable us to examine cells and blood from patients with inflammatory joint diseases in an effort to determine the cause of this class of disease. Samples from patients with both autoimmune (idiopathic) and infectious (Lyme disease) causes of inflammatory joint disease are being studied.
Research Interests & Projects
Our current investigations include studies of rheumatic (in collaboration with the departments of Rheumatology and Orthopedics) and gastrointestinal inflammatory diseases (in collaboration with the department of Gastroenterology) of idiopathic and infectious etiologies. These investigations utilize a multidisciplinary approach, which enables the lab to combine the medical and clinical diagnostic skills of physician collaborators with their own research and lab-based diagnostic capabilities.
Two infectious agents are under study as part of these investigations. They are Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, and Helicobactor pylori, the leading cause of ulcers. H. pylori is also associated with other inflammatory gastric disorders. The lab is also studying the role of the immune system in initiation and perpetuation of inflammatory joint and soft-tissue disease associated with both rheumatic and gastrointestinal disorders. The latter studies are focused on detecting various antibodies and cytokines using immunoassays and a cell culture system; the former is focused on identifying relevant antigenic determinants of the infectious agents and elucidating immune markers that may serve as diagnostic and prognostic indices of disease.
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