Head of the Laboratory & Group Leader: Marek Šinkora, PhD. (email@example.com)
The adaptive immune system of higher vertebrates is believed to have evolved to counter the ability of pathogens to avoid expulsion because of their high rate of germline mutations. Vertebrates developed this adaptive immune response through the evolution of lymphocytes capable of somatic generation of a diverse repertoire of their specific receptors without the need to increase the frequency of germline mutation. The focus of our research is on the ontogenetic development of the lymphocytes, and the repertoires they generate in swine.
For a variety of reasons, swine are useful subjects in which to study lymphocyte development. The relatively long gestation (114 days) provides a convenient opportunity for characterizing sequential developmental events during fetal life. Pigs possess an epitheliochorial placenta that includes six layers and prevents prenatal transfer of maternal immunoglobulins (as well as probably smaller proteins) to the fetus and offspring. For this reason, newborn piglets are devoid of transferred maternal immunity, and the most immediate source of newborn protection is ingested colostrum (the very early mother milk). Without colostrum these piglets will die. On the other hand, piglets can be aseptically born into sterile isolators thus preventing exposure to all environmental and maternal factors while those that are intrinsic develop. And because pigs are precocial, they do not need their mothers to survive. This makes these so called germ-free piglets uniquely useful for studies of the naive immune system and allows the experimenter to control most extrinsic factors. This is not possible with laboratory rodents or primates because they transmit maternal factors in utero and they are altricial and cannot be reared after birth without their mothers. Because swine have numerous offspring, studies are more economically feasible and of better experimental design, than in other ungulates that share a similar maternal–fetal relationship as regards the transfer of passive immunity.
Our laboratory is primarily concentrated on studies of B and T lymphocyte development in swine. Our activities include investigation of early development of immune system , particularly B cell development , immunoglobulin rearrangement and development of lymphocyte repertoire . We also study other lymphocyte subpopulations . Our goal is to bring new insights into the field of comparative immunology using germ-free and gnotobiotic piglets . Our ontogenetic studies reveal many unique features relevant to the field of comparative immunology by showing what is universal and what is species or even strain or individual specific . Our research also concerns infections . Our recent reviews summarize progress in the use of swine in developmental immunology and development of antibody repertoire . For more information see our research activities.