Research interest: Immunology and Virology
Research in the Barker lab is focused on understanding innate immune responses to viral infection. Once a virus infects a cell, the viral genome is released in order for viral replication to occur. This released viral genome can be recognized by immune receptors called pattern recognition receptors (PRR) to lead to inflammation or cell death; these responses may be associated with symptoms of disease. Specifically, we are interested how DNA sensors in the cell detect HIV, other retroviral products, or DNA viruses. Recent evidence has indicated that our own cells’ DNA may also inappropriately trigger these pattern recognition receptors leading to autoimmunity, inflammatory diseases, and contributing to cancer. In addition, we are interested in genetic variation in pattern recognition receptor genes and the relationship between this variation, receptor function, and viral pathogenesis. The goal of these studies is to understand PRR signaling to determine ways that we may alter this signaling to treat disease.