Darren R. Heintzman
Graduate Student , Molecular Pathology and Immunology
The Rathmell lab focuses on how metabolic pathways influence the function and fate of lymphocytes in inflammatory diseases, anti-tumor immunity, and in leukemia. I am interested in how signaling mechanisms influence metabolic pathway activation and T cell differentiation. The importance of cytokine signaling can be seen in the differentiation of naïve T cells to either immune homeostatic Tregs or pro-inflammatory Th17 cells. Both subsets require the cytokine TGF-b for differentiation, but addition of the cytokine IL-6 causes differentiation to skew toward the proinflammatory Th17 subset and activates a host of distinct metabolic programs. Research in this area is expected to inform studies of Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cell therapy, which can utilize various signaling mechanisms to enhance survival, proliferation, and anti-tumor immunity.