Many animal owners look to their community veterinarians for routine checkups, immunizations, and treatment of minor illnesses and injuries. Community practice veterinarians are general practitioners, like family doctors. However, like family doctors, community practice veterinarians may see patients that could benefit from the care of a specialist. Dr. Leah Cohn, Professor of Small Animal Internal Medicine and Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery, wants people to know that veterinary specialists exist, and at the University of Missouri Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, those specialists are on call to help.
In a back corner of the University of Missouri’s medical building, a few floors above the hospital and tucked away to the right, Habib Zaghouani watches a cellular war. He has been up there for seven years, with an army of graduate students and a colony of mice, trying to understand why our bodies attack us and how we can make them stop.
A selection of interviewees from the last 50 features of SyndicateMizzou discusses how they came to be involved in their field.
Jason Ellis leads the project that examines how a T cell decides whether to live or die after fighting an infection. These memory T cells, the ones that remain, keep the same illness from happening all over again, and vaccines are based on this same principle.
As the recipient of $1.5 million in grants from the National Institute of Health, Zaghouani is working to develop a new immunology center at the University of Missouri-Columbia. When it is finished, experts from around the world will be able to meet and exchange ideas.
Christine Hoeman is the head of Zaghouani’s project researching infant immune systems, an effort that seeks to understand why a newborn is more likely to have allergic reactions and fevers. The project will hopefully result in better vaccines for babies.
Zaghouani’s passion for immunology springs from a love of genetics and a fascination with the human immune system. He sees his work as more a hobby than a job, and has been able to share his knowledge of the subject with his many graduate students and lab technicians.
Zaghouani’s third project has had great success. Cara Haymaker, who is in charge of this research program, reports that they have identified a successful treatment for experimental allergic encephalomyelitis, a disease affecting mice that is very similar to multiple sclerosis in humans. So far, the research team has been able to completely reverse the disease in mice with two forms of treatment.
Danielle Tartar leads the project that works to treat Type I diabetes. In mice, the team has been able to isolate treatment and calm the immune cells that attack the insulin-producing cells. They are now working to create a form of that treatment that can be administered orally. Thus far, they have been able to treat the disease with weekly shots, and they plan to begin testing these treatments on humans very soon.
Habib Zaghouani, along with his team of graduate and post-doctoral fellows, is working on four different projects in the lab. The first examines why newborn babies are so susceptible to infection, the second tries to understand how the immune system’s memory works, while the third and fourth aim at developing treatments for specific diseases: type I diabetes and multiple sclerosis.