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Pullen Lab Research

Mast Cells Myeloid Derived Suppressor Cells and Cancer

We are interested in cell biology questions that have translational importance for diseases and medicine, especially for complementary and integrative health practices already in use by many people.  Generally, we can be characterized as stuyding inflammation, whether this is allergy, wound healing, or cancer.  A lot of the cells and mechanisms we study are effectors of the interactions between innate and adaptive immunity.  

We are currently working on the following:
  • Functional roles of trefoil family factors (TFFs) and their utility as biomarkers across diverse cancer types.  This includes the definitive identification of their receptors, and other major signaling networks overlapping with TFF activities.
  • Signaling networks associated with suppressing mast cell activity, with special attention to the effects of TGF-β.
  • The effects of plant-derived compounds on T cell biology (alkaloids) and mast cells and myeloid-derived suppressor cells (cannabinoids, in collaboration with the Hyslop lab in Chemistry & Biochemistry).
  • In collaboration with the Haughian and Hayward (School of Sport and Exercise Science) labs we are studying the effects of exercise on cancer progression and recovery. Currently, we are focusing on myeloid-derived suppressor cell expansion and function in the context of exercise.  

We are actively seeking collaboration (public, private, industrial) on these exciting, new projects involving plant-derived compounds and immune system cells:

  • The effects of the alkaloid berberine on antigen presentation and T-helper cell programming, with the goal of assessing berberine's prophylactic potential for autoimmune pathologies such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • The anti-cancer potential of cannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBA), directly on cancer cells and on related cells of the immune system.
  • The effects of cannabinoids, more broadly, on myeloid and lymphoid cell biology to determine the antagonistic and agonistic uses of cannabinoids as potential anti-inflammatory supplements.
  • We also seek to discover the mechanism(s) underlying Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome, which is associated with chronic, heavy, recreational consumption of cannabis. We have some compelling preliminary data that it has to do with hyper-activation of certain immune system cells!