The goal of the Center for the Genetics of Host Defense is to advance the fundamental understanding of the genetics of immunity to aid in the treatment of infection, disorders of immunity, and autoimmunity.

Failures of the immune system represent a substantial burden to society, and a tragedy for those directly affected by them. The problem inflammation represents is now seen to be even more broad in its scope and impact. Current research suggests that diseases such as arteriosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and obesity have inflammatory components. By understanding immune signaling, we may ultimately find points at which selective therapeutic intervention could be achieved.


At present, research in the Center for the Genetics of Host Defense is carried out principally in mice, while a search for expertise with other model organisms is ongoing. Screens addressing immune competence and/or inflammation and its causes are performed to identify exceptional animals. Mutations are tracked down using classical genetic mapping and massively parallel short-read sequencing. Cause and effect are verified using transgenesis, gene traps, or gene targeting.

A highly cooperative effort, this depends on expertise in computational biology, sequencing, mapping, reproductive biology (which includes competence with intracytoplasmic sperm injection, generation of chimeric mice, transgenic mice, and the creation of induced pluripotent stem cells), and animal husbandry, with a steady production of mutants.

The Center is also building expertise in biochemistry, cell biology, and molecular biology as needed to understand the mechanism by which specific mutations produce their phenotypes.