Company: Scripps Institute
Job title: Associate Professor
Dr. Paust is a leading authority in the field of Natural Killer (NK) cell-mediated immunological memory in the context of viral infection and malignancy. She discovered that murine and human NK cells are very long-lived, and capable of immunological memory to a large variety of viral antigens and to altered self-proteins. These data give precedence to the hypothesis that NK cell-mediated effector functions can be harnessed to prevent or treat chronic infection and malignancy. Since this initial discovery, her laboratory has been a major leader in the development of novel vaccine and therapeutic strategies that elicit and direct host-protective memory NK cells to sites of viral entry, replication or malignancy. In particular, using mouse models of viral infection, humanized mouse models of HIV or solid tumor, as well as human volunteers, her laboratory identified memory NK cells in the livers of mice and in humanized mice as bonified adaptive immune cells that they mediate vaccination-dependent, antigen-specific, long-lived immune-logical recall responses, and demonstrated that memory NK cells are rapidly recruited to sites of Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) glycoprotein-induced delayed type hypersensitivity in humans, even decades after initial VZV exposure. Using flow cytometry, in vitro and in vivo assays, as well as gene expression profiling, her laboratory is currently elucidating how NK cell receptor expression and receptor repertoire diversity modulates NK cell differentiation, effector functions and host protection to viral infection and to solid tumor.