Lauren EhrlichAssistant Professor - Department of Molecular Biosciences
Main Office: NMS 2.314
Phone:1 512 475 7125
The overarching goal of the Ehrlich lab is to understand the cellular and molecular interactions between thymocytes and heterogeneous stromal cells in the thymic microenvironment that promote development of a healthy, non-autoreactive, and non-malignant T cell repertoire.
We use mouse models, in conjunction with 2-photon microscopy, multi-parameter flow cytometry and cell sorting, immunological assays, cell culture, and molecular biology to identify the cellular interactions and molecular cues that guide developing T cells into the appropriate thymic microenvironments where they interact with stromal cells that provide survival and/or differentiation signals. If these guidance cues go awry, T cells with a broad array of antigen receptor specificities may not develop appropriately, compromising adaptive immune responses to pathogens. Alternatively, autoreactive T cells may be allowed to persist, increasing the risk for autoimmunity.
Furthermore, we have recent data demonstrating that the thymic microenvironment becomes altered during development of T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, such that cells in the tumor microenvironment promote tumor growth. Thus, maintenance of appropriate thymocyte: stromal cell interactions is critically important for development of a diverse, self-tolerant, and non-malignant T cell pool.