2010-2011 President of the American Society of Microbiology - Maryland Branch
Department of Biology
Loyola University Maryland
4501 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21210-2699
Office: DS 274
Office tel: (410) 617-2240
Fax: (410) 617-5682
Areas of Interest: Immunology and Microbiology
B.S. Eastern Washington University
Ph.D. University of Iowa
The innate immune system functions as the first line of defense against microbial invasion and subsequent infection. In addition, proper function of the innate immune system is necessary for generation of an adaptive immune response and immunologic memory (the basis of vaccination). Despite the diversity and quantity of research being conducted regarding the innate immune system, there are still many gaps in our knowledge. The focus of my current research involves elucidating mechanisms through which the innate immune system can be positively or negatively regulated, especially in the context of alternative medicine.
Alternative/complementary medicine is defined as a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine. In an era of rising medical costs and increasing antibiotic resistance in microbes, many people are turning to these types of therapies. In fact, over 80% of the population uses some form of alternative/complementary medicine (e.g., the use of herbal remedies, tai chi, reiki, acupuncture, etc.) to maintain and/or improve their health. Unfortunately, since these products and practices are not regulated by the FDA or other oversight groups, many patients are using them based only on anecdotal evidence. It is critical that scientific studies address this problem by assessing the efficacy and mechanism of these therapeutic strategies.
Research in the Thompson lab is centered on testing the ability of common herbal remedies- especially those touted to “boost” the immune system- to alter phagocytosis, microbicidal activity, and cytokine secretion in macrophages and neutrophils. To date, we have focused predominantly on echinacea and green tea, finding that each of these significantly alters innate immune responses. We are continuing to assess different preparations of these herbs (and others) as well as working to define the mechanism through which they mediate these immunomodulatory effects.