Education and Professional Standing
- PhD, Immunology, University of Guelph, 2001
- DVM, University of Tehran (Iran), 1991
Multicellular organisms, in order to survive, have developed a wide range of defense mechanisms that have the ability to rapidly recognize pathogens and mount an early effective antimicrobial response by preventing infection, destroying the invading pathogens or neutralizing their virulence factors. These functions are the domain of innate immune cells such as macrophages, dendritic cells (DCs), neutrophils, natural killer (NK) cells and NKT cells. Although the innate immune system was described by Metchnikoff over a century ago, there are still at least three fascinating problems in host innate defense against microbial invasion. First, how does the host innate defense recognize and destroy many different pathogens? Second, how does the host discriminate between constituents of the external world, “microbial non-self”, and the constituents of “self”? And third, how does the innate immune system direct and dictate the type and magnitude of the adaptive immune responses.
The main focus of our research is to study the induction of innate defense against microbial pathogens, particularly at mucosal surfaces. NK cells, NKT cells and IL-15 are the main component of the innate immune system.
Our major interest is directed to study:
- Biology of IL-15
- The role of IL-15 and NK/NKT cells in innate defence against viruses and cancer using mice lacking these cells (IL-15-/-) or mice have significantly high number and activity of NK/NKT cells (IL-15 transgenic). We are also studying the role of IL-15 in obesity and metabolic disorders.
- The importance of innate immune cells in generation and/or function of the adaptive immune responses against mucosal viral infections
- Molecules that induce innate mucosal defence against microbial pathogens
- Use of a humanized mouse model to study human immune system responses against human-specific infectious diseases and cancer.
I currently teach in the Bachelor of Health Science Program, and am involved in the following courses:
- HTH SCI 3I03, Introductory Immunology
- HTH SCI 4O03, Principles of Virus Pathogenesis, Course coordinator
For more information on Dr Ashkar:
McMaster Immunology Research Centre (MIRC)