Dr. Joseph W. Brewer, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, has been awarded a federally funded research grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The four-year award totals $1,277,010.
Dr. Brewer's project is titled "Homeostasis of the ER in Differentiating B-cells." His research focuses on how cells in our body protect us from infection.
"This research project will help us better understand how to most more effectively treat infection," Dr. Brewer said. "In addition, the project will provide excellent training experiences for graduate students in the Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. program and medical students within the USA College of Medicine."
The human body is protected by armies of cells, one of which is called the B-cellincluding B-cells, that fight infection. According to Dr. Brewer, B-cells fight infection by producing large amounts of special proteins called antibodies that can bind to germs and block these invaders from causing disease.
In this research project, Dr. Brewer is studying the processes that allow B-cells to rapidly and effectively produce large amounts of antibodies. "While B-cells produce antibodies that protect the body against infection, B-cells can malfunction and cause major health problems," Dr. Brewer said. "These health problems can include deadly cancers such as multiple myeloma and autoimmune diseases such as lupus. Sadly, current treatments for such diseases are limited and inadequate."
Because this research seeks to understand processes that control B-cell function, Dr. Brewer believes the findings may contribute to the development of new treatments for diseases caused by faulty B-cells.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the nation's medical research agency -- making important medical discoveries that improve health and save lives. NIH is the largest source of funding for medical research in the world.