Rose Presents 2011 Vitetta Lecture on How Brain Fights Infection, Oct. 26

By whitlocd | October 25, 2011

Dr. R. Wesley Rose III will discuss “Fighting viruses that attack the brain: Understanding immune mechanisms in the central nervous system” as he delivers the Stacy Anne Vitetta Memorial Lecture on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at 4 p.m. in the Mirror Room of Grey Towers Castle at Arcadia University.

Rose held the Vitetta Professorship from 2009-11. An assistant professor of biology at Arcadia University, he conducts research on understanding how the immune system eliminates viral infections of the mammalian central nervous system (CNS), while sparing this essential organ system.

The Stacy Anne Vitetta Professorship was established in 1995 in memory of Stacy Anne Vitetta, who graduated from Arcadia University in 1982 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and shortly thereafter passed away from a lingering illness. Her parents, Dollie and Francis G. Vitetta, a long-time Trustee of the University, chose to remember their daughter by creating a professorship in her name that would be awarded every two years. In creating this award, the Vitettas wanted to assist young faculty who are starting their teaching careers by supporting their passion for pursuing independent research.

“The Stacy Anne Vitetta Professorship is one of the very best ways our University has to recognize excellence in our younger faculty and encourage them with their path-breaking research,” says Arcadia’s President Carl (Tobey) Oxholm III. “Frank and Dollie were the first of what we will hope will become a long list of people who recognize that they can, through philanthropy, make a critical difference in the careers not only of these faculty, but of the students whom they teach and mentor.”

Rose is an esteemed scholar and teacher at Arcadia University. He was awarded the coveted Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching to a standing ovation from faculty and students at the 2011 Honors Convocation.

According to his abstract, “Numerous viruses are able to infect the neurons of the brain and spinal cord (collectively known as the central nervous system, or CNS). Infection of the CNS by such viruses, which include the herpes viruses, polio virus, HIV, and measles (among others) often results in dire outcomes for the infected individual, including cognitive defects, paralysis, and even death. Since viruses often commandeer the cellular machinery during infection to construct more viruses, the immune system often eradicates viral infections by targeting and killing infected cells in order to eliminate the ‘virus factories.’”

“Therefore,” he says, “viral infections of the CNS present a particular challenge to the immune system: since neurons of the CNS are generally non-renewable, classical antiviral strategies involving the killing of infected cells would be of great detriment to the host. Thus the CNS employs mechanisms of viral elimination that do not require the killing of infected cells. These mechanisms often involve the entry of immune cells (T cells) into the CNS, recognition of infected neurons by the T cells, and elimination of the infection by the release of specific proteins (‘cytokines’) from the T cells. These cytokines provide ‘instructions’ that stimulate the infected neurons to eliminate the virus, without resulting in the death of the neuron itself. However, the responses of the neurons to these cytokines are not well-understood. It is therefore the goal of our current work to characterize the neuronal response to the antiviral immune cytokine interferon gamma, a major player in the antiviral response in the CNS. These studies will aid us in the characterization of antiviral responses in the CNS, which may ultimately provide important insights into the development of novel immune-based approaches to prevent or eliminate chronic infections of the brain.”