Dr. Burlingham has developed a highly respected transplant basic research program that focuses on acquired immunologic tolerance. His laboratory hopes to gain insight into graft acceptance by studying transplant recipients who have survived even though they have stopped taking immunosuppressive drugs.
Specifically, his research focuses on the natural exchange of soluble antigens and low numbers of white blood cells that occurs between mother and child during pregnancy and nursing. The lab's working hypothesis is that this exchange, which leads to persistence of bone marrow-derived maternal blood cells within the offspring ("microchimerism") may induce a "natural" form of tolerance. This tolerance, if harnessed, may allow for drug-free acceptance of transplanted grafts.
New directions in the past 3 years include:
- identification of TH17 responses to collagen type V as a fundamental aspect of fibro-obliterative diseases such as atherosclerosis and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, as well as chronic rejection of lung and heart transplants[collaboration with David Wilkes, Indiana U.]
- [most recently] identification of prostate antigen-specific regulatory T cells in patients undergoing immunotherapy for prostate ca. [collaboration with Doug McNeel, UW-Madison].