College Grants & Sponsored Programs

Curley Awarded NSF ERI Grant

Publication Date
Stephanie Curley

$199,984; NSF Engineering Research Initiation (ERI)

Evaluation of the Immune Response to Lyme Disease Antigens Using Bacterially-Derived Outer Membrane Vesicles
Principal Investigator: Stephanie Curley, Mary H. '80 and Richard K. Templeton '80 Assistant Professor of Electrical, Computer and Biomedical Engineering

Lyme disease is the most common vector borne disease in the United States and is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), which is transmitted to humans through the bite of the black-legged tick. Prior research has shown that the immune response to Lyme disease is highly variable and depends on a range of factors, introducing challenges when trying to develop new vaccines. While many Lyme antigens produce a protective immune response in certain situations, in other situations and/or forms, these same antigens produce a large immune response but no protection from illness. Due to this variability, this project will systematically investigate the impact of specific Lyme disease antigens on the immune response using a novel carrier system, outer membrane vesicles (OMVs). OMVs, nanometer-sized particles produced by bacteria, will be developed and used to activate the immune system using multiple Lyme proteins. The immune response generated will then be measured and compared to the response generated by OMVs that carry only one Lyme protein. This research will increase the fundamental understanding of which proteins are required to create a strong and protective immune response, ultimately leading to improved vaccination strategies to prevent the bacterial infection associated with Lyme disease.

Through this project, undergraduate students will develop and hone their biomedical research skills in all aspects of the research, including experimental design, data collection, and analysis. They will also have the opportunity to attend conferences to present their work, form relationships with scholars in the field, and contribute to peer-reviewed publications. Additional undergraduates will be introduced to this research through the development of a new course on immunoengineering. This course will be focused on how engineering is used to investigate and change the immune system to enable better prevention and treatment of disease.

Furthermore, the results of this work are of particular interest to the local community, as Lyme disease is an increasingly prevalent problem impacting upstate New York residents. PI Curley and the undergraduate researchers will engage with the regional community by presenting and discussing this research at a publicly accessible talk in the near future.

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