Karen Mossman
Academic Editor

Karen L. Mossman


Summary

Professor of Pathology and Molecular Medicine and member of the Institute of Infectious Disease Research and McMaster Immunology Research Centre at McMaster University. Associate Editor of PLOS Pathogens and PLOS ONE and Editorial Board Member of Journal of Virology. Recipient of the 2006 Christina Fleischmann Award from the International Society for Interferon and Cytokine Research.

Immunology Infectious Diseases Molecular Biology Virology

Institution affiliations

Work details

Professor

McMaster University
Pathology and Molecular Medicine
The focus of our research is to understand how viruses evade host immune defenses. When a virus infects a host, the host mounts an impressive immune response aimed at preventing the virus from multiplying and spreading. Viruses have evolved strategies to block this response in order to ensure their survival. Probably the most important aspect of the host immune response to virus infection is the production of an immune modulator called interferon. Interferon has a great impact on host defense mechanisms and as a result viruses have evolved multiple strategies to overcome its activities. We are currently studying the mechanisms of interferon inhibition and the countermeasures taken by different viruses. These studies have led us to developing viruses for use in gene therapy and cancer therapy. The virus that we focus on is herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) which is a human pathogen that causes cold sores. We have found that by disabling the virus through removal of particular genes, the virus can grow in cancer cells and kill these cells while having no effect on healthy cells. Such viruses, called "oncolytic viruses" are currently being tested as a novel approach to cancer therapy in the hopes of eliminating tumors without the toxic side effects associated with many current treatments. HSV-1 is also being studied as a tool for gene therapy, since it is easy to manipulate, it can be targeted to specific tissues and it can house several therapeutic genes in a single vector. Thus, overall, our goal is to understand how viruses and their hosts interact with each other so that we can use viruses as tools for the treatment of multiple diseases.