DURHAM – When a person gets sick, the invading virus or bacteria often triggers an immune response, sending a wave of white blood cells to attack the source of the illness. While the body’s natural defenses can often dismantle the infection, the immune reaction can sometimes cause more harm than intended.
That’s where Joel Collier’s lab comes in.
Collier, an associate professor in Duke University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, creates biomaterials that can help understand and control adaptive immune responses. Most of the lab’s projects involve using biomaterials, peptides and proteins to devise immune therapies for a variety of diseases, ranging from cancer to Crohn’s disease.
“Figuring out how we can design these materials to self-assemble and appropriately interact with the immune system is a big challenge,” says Collier. “Every type of immunological cell that interacts with these materials does so in a different manner, so we have to build our materials in a way that stimulates the right combination of cells to behave the right way.”