Faculty and Research

Aballay Lab Members

Brian Head
Postdoctoral Associate

270 Jones Building
Box 3580 DUMC
Durham, N.C. 27710

Phone: 919.668.2449
Fax: 919.668.0795
Email: brian.head@duke.edu

Brian Head

Animals get stressed.  In fact, animals (metazoans) have been getting stressed for a long time – for at least the last 500 million years.  Luckily, over the last ~500 million years, animals have evolved to cope with a variety of different types of stress. One type, infection by pathogenic microbes, can be alleviated by the action of the immune system and other host pathways. The host response to infection is complex but, at a broad level, involves sensing the pathogen, tolerating damage, reducing pathogen burden, and, finally, restoring homeostasis. This final step is critical because if the host cannot restore homeostasis, long-term problems can arise. In humans, these problems manifest in a multitude of disorders including recurrent pathogenic infection, inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), and gastritis/duodenitis.

In the Aballay lab, I am studying the final step of the host response to acute pathogenic infection – recovery. To study the recovery process, I have developed an acute infection model using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and the human pathogens Salmonella enterica and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. We use C. elegans (“new elegant rod” in Latin) as a model host to investigate evolutionarily-conserved recovery pathways due to its simple body plan, short generation time, optical transparency, genetic tools, and conservation with vertebrates. Overall, my studies will help us to better understand both cell-autonomous (within cell) and non-cell-autonomous (cell-to-cell) pathways that mediate recovery from acute pathogenic infection.

Outside of the lab, I enjoy running (the Krispy Kreme challenge!), playing volleyball, and hiking. Also, I’m preparing for the inevitable Zombie apocalypse by preparing food stores of pickled okra and exploring Duke forest escape routes.



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