Sam Speck, PhD


Emory University School of Medicine

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The research in my lab focuses on 2 gamma-herpesviruses, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and murine gammaherpesvirus 68 (HV68). A major property of all herpesviruses is their ability to persist for life in the infected individual. The gammaherpesviruses are known to latently infect either B or T lymphocytes, and to be associated with the development of lymphoma and lymphoproliferative diseases. Their major interests are to understand: (i) how these viruses regulate viral gene expression during latency; (ii) how they modulate and avoid the host immune response; and (iii) how they switch from a latent infection to replication of the viral genome (referred to as reactivation), a process that is essential for propagation of these viruses to uninfected individuals. Their research on EBV focuses on tissue culture models that recapitulate the various EBV genetic programs. The information gained from these studies is then employed to address the behavior of EBV in infected individuals. However, because there are no small animal models for studying EBV pathogenesis, they use HV68 infection of mice to address specific issues of the host response to gammaherpesvirus infection. HV68 infection of mice causes several different chronic diseases in immunocompromised mice, including a severe vasculitis that affects the great elastic arteries and lymphoproliferative disease. My lab is currently identifying HV68 genes involved in establishing and maintaining viral latency, as well as those involved in the development of chronic disease. In addition, they are actively characterizing the host response to viral infection to address how viral latency and persistent infection is controlled.

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