Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV), a prototype β-herpesvirus, is a ubiquitous pathogen found in 60-90% of the human population. HCMV establishes a lifelong latent and recurrent infection in the host after primary infection. While asymptomatic in healthy individuals, HCMV is the leading viral cause of birth defects. It also causes severe or even life-threatening diseases in immunocompromised individuals such as AIDS patients, transplant recipients, and cancer patients. In addition, accumulating evidence suggests that HCMV is involved in the development of cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease and several types of cancers.
There is no vaccine available for HCMV. Current treatments for HCMV diseases are limited due to the severe side effects of existing drugs and the occurrence of resistant strains. These limitations are largely due to the lack of a complete understanding of the HCMV biology and its complex interactions with the host. My primary research interest is to understand the virus-host interactions during cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection. Intimate interactions between the virus and the host are fundamental to the viral life cycle and virus related diseases. They have also been rich sources to understand key biological processes in basic cell biology and immunology. The knowledge of how CMV interacts with the host will ultimately help us identify novel therapeutic targets, and develop effective vaccine vectors against globally important pathogens like CMV.
Current projects are (1) Elucidate the role of the unfolded protein response in cytomegalovirus infection; (2) Define how HCMV inhibits cellular DNA synthesis and regulates cell cycle progression to facilitate viral replication; and a long term project (3) Develop a high throughput RNAi and small molecule screening platform for target identification and drug discovery.