Boston College Biology Professor Thomas Chiles and colleagues at Boston University Medical Center have been awarded a five-year, approximately $4.5-million program project grant from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The research will focus on understanding the growth and differentiation of a small subset of white blood cells called B-1a lymphocytes (B-1a cells).
B-1a cells, which are found in the peritoneal cavity, and B-2 cells, which are located in the spleen and lymph nodes, defend the body against infectious disease. However, an over-production of B-1a cells can lead to autoimmune diseases and leukemias.
Research by Chiles' group at Boston College, working with Dr. Thomas Rothstein of Boston University's Department of Medicine, previously demonstrated that the rules that govern cell cycle control and differentiation to immunoglobulin-secreting plasma cells are different in B-1a cells than in B-2 cells.
As part of the new NIH-funded program project, research carried out at Boston College will seek to better understand the molecular mechanisms that control when B-1a cells enter the cell cycle and proliferate.
Insights from these studies will help us understand the molecular basis of several human lymphoproliferative disorders associated with B-1a cells, including a form of cancer called chronic lymphocytic leukemia.