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Trafficking of T cells is crucial for every phase of T cell function from the initiation of the immune response to effector function at the site of inflammation. T cells move into the lymph node, where they migrate through the tissue to maximize the chances of encountering an antigen bearing dendritic cell. Once activated, T cells then migrate to inflammatory sites to perform effector functions to clear infection. T cell migration has also been shown to be an important mediator of disease states including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. While the process of T cell migration is critical to immune function, relatively little is known about the types of motion taken by T cells, especially within native physical environments such as the lung during an active immune response.
In addition to mediating immune responses, T cells may become cancerous, developing into leukemia. T-derived leukemia cells also retain many migration properties of normal T cells, and leukemic T cell migration to organs, specifically the brain, pose significant problems for current therapies.
The Cannon laboratory is focused on defining and understanding the fundamental mechanisms that control normal T cell and leukemic T cell migration in tissues such as lymph nodes, lung, and brain. We use a combination of cutting edge imaging techniques to visualize T cell movement in living tissues along with computational modeling tools to answer questions about how specific types of motility affect T cell function. Using a combination of 2-photon microscopy, flow cytometry, confocal microscopy, and standard biochemistry, we analyze T cell and leukemic cell movement in living tissues. Using this quantitative understanding, we can develop a more in depth understanding and better computational models to improve immune responses and therapies in leukemia.