The research goal of Zhu lab is to gain a fundamental understanding of important biological processes at the level of cells and molecules, and their relations to human health and diseases. Current research projects in the Zhu lab focus on the adhesion and signaling molecules in the immune system and the vascular system. These projects are relevant to cardiovascular diseases, auto-immune and immunodifficient diseases, and cancer.
Zhou Yuan is a PhD student in Bioengineering at Georgia Tech. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Beihang University (China), and a degree of MASc from University of Toronto, both in Aerospace Engineering
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, among which melanoma is the most serious type with high mortality rate. Despite the critical role of CD8+ T cells in tumor clearance, their functions in the tumor microenvironment (TME) are impaired by immunosuppressive cells/cytokines, inhibitory receptors, and metabolic restriction. Targeting these pathways were shown to promote tumor clearance, yet unknown mechanisms may still exist curtailing the T cell responses. T cell activation has been shown to be largely determined by the in situ mechanokinetic properties of the binding of T cell receptor (TCR) to peptide-major histocompatibility complex (pMHC), which are sensitive to perturbations of the cellular environment. Our preliminary studies have shown that the molecular interactions involved in T cell antigen recognition are altered in the TME. The present thesis will study the extent of this alteration, how such alteration consequentially suppresses T cell effector functions, and what the underlying mechanisms are. This study aims to address these questions with animal models, highly-sensitive biomechanical assays of single molecules, and other cellular and bimolecular approaches. The outcome will greatly enhance our understanding of the impaired anti-tumor T cell responses and inspire novel strategies for cancer immunotherapy.