David Ucker

    Email Address: duck@uic.edu
    College: Medicine Department: Microbiology and Immunology
    Title: Professor
    Office: E803 MSB M/C 790
    Participating in the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Research Awards program: Yes

    Research Interest:
    Cells die normally throughout the life of an organism, and those dead (“apoptotic”) cells are recognized by phagocytes and cleared. In addition, we have found that those dead cells exert potent anti-inflammatory and other effects on the phagocytes that recognize them. Our recent studies have highlighted the profound consequences of the recognition and clearance of dead cells, accomplished by macrophages and other phagocytic cells. The process of specific apoptotic cell recognition represents a ubiquitous and unconventional dimension of innate immunity (“innate apoptotic immunity”) that discriminates dead or dying cells from viable ones and that potently modulates inflammation.
    The modulatory activity of the apoptotic corpse is manifest as an immediate-early inhibition of pro-inflammatory cytokine gene transcription within the phagocyte with which it interacts, and is exerted upon binding, independent of subsequent engulfment or soluble factors. The appearance of determinants for recognition and the inhibition of inflammation represents a post-translational gain-of-function, the revelation of cryptic activity during the process of physiological cell death.
    The mechanistic dissection of the specific process by which apoptotic cells are recognized and modulate immune responsiveness is fundamentally important to a complete understanding of cell death in a physiological context. The profound modulation of inflammatory responsiveness exerted by apoptotic cells also suggests that these studies may reveal new targets for inflammatory control, and novel targets for therapeutic intervention in cases of pathological inflammatory response.

    Minimum time commitment in hours per week: 10

    Qualifications of a Student:
    Sophomore, junior, or senior biology or biochemistry major, highly inquisitive, and with an excellent record of coursework performance. Prior laboratory experience preferred.

    Brief Summary of what is expected from the student:
    Students will work with a senior graduate student or research assistant, learn basic techniques, and focus on a long-term project that is part of the larger research efforts of the lab. In addition to learning particular techniques, the student will be expected to become fluent in the intellectual underpinnings of the research, including relevant literature. The student will be expected to contribute to the ongoing functioning of the laboratory, and participate in weekly lab meetings and other lab-related activities.

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