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Institute of Immunity and Transplantation

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Mala Maini

Professor of Transplant Immunology

Research area

Dissecting the immune correlates of viral persistence and liver damage, in order to allow the development of novel immunotherapeutic strategies for hepatitis B virus (HBV).

Research programme

Research summary

As well as being of great medical importance in its own right, HBV provides a useful model to provide insights into liver immunology, which has relevance for other hepatotropic infections and malignancies, liver transplantation and autoimmunity.

We are defining specialised cell types and pathways that maintain the uniquely tolerant immunological environment in the liver. Defining these mechanisms is critical to understanding how highly prevalent human pathogens like HBV can persist in this niche. Much of our work takes advantage of our strong clinical links to obtain blood samples from well-characterised patient cohorts and healthy or malignant human liver tissue to study immune responses at the site of disease. We focus on understanding local cell-cell cross-talk and unique influences of the hepatic microenvironment, including metabolic regulation of immunity. We have recently defined populations of liver-resident T cells and NK cells and are investigating how to harness these for immunotherapy.

We are interested in how hepatic immune responses can either mediate protective effects or can cause liver damage leading to the complications of liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) that still kill an estimated 700,000 people a year with chronic HBV infection. Existing therapies are rarely able to cure HBV or complications like HCC so our goal is to inform the development of tailored boosting of protective antiviral and anti-tumour immunity. We collaborate internationally with academics and industry to contribute to this exciting and fast-moving field of applied research.

Publications

Selected publications
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