Michele Stackaruk

Fourth Year Thesis Student


Michele is now completing her medical degree at McMaster University

I am a fourth year student in the Bachelor of Health Sciences program at McMaster. I am currently undertaking my fourth year thesis project in the Ashkar Lab. My interest for immunology first sparked at a brief exposure to the subject during an anatomy and physiology course during my second year. My fascination with the immune system, specifically innate immunity, grew as I continued to take introductory and advanced immunology courses in my third year. This led to a decision to pursue research of the innate immune system, specifically natural killer cells, for my fourth year project.

My Research

It is well known that natural killer (NK) cells play an integral role in our innate immune system’s defense against viral infections. As such, the conditions and mechanisms by which NK cells are activated and inhibited are imperative to understand. One paradox that is in need of further exploration is the positive and negative regulatory effects of interferon (IFN)-alpha and IFN-beta on NK cell activation.

Type I IFN, secreted upon viral invasion of host tissue, has been shown to have differing effects on the activation of NK cells. First, type I IFN (IFN-alpha and IFN-beta) can activate NK cells via the JAK-STAT pathway to induce the production of the anti-viral cytokine IFN-gamma. However, it has also been shown that type I IFN can negatively regulate production of IFN-gamma. As such, my project explores the effects of type I IFN on NK cell activation.