Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Waking the Immune System: Oklahoma University Professor Receives Grant for Research

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Waking the Immune System: Oklahoma University Professor Receives Grant for Research

Article excerpt

Dr. Sunil Joshi brings a powerful perspective to his immunology research at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

Growing up in an impoverished part of India, he suffered from malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases, recovering while watching many others die. He saw his neighbors use the saris they wore to filter out the visible parasites from water they walked miles to find, knowing the bacteria they couldn't see would wreak havoc on their bodies. He worked in camps where people suffered from malaria, watching many die not from a lack of medicine, but from malnutrition.

Since then, he has focused his research on helping people who are weighed down by the world's inequities. Joshi recently received a $100,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for his research on using electric pulse waves to stimulate the cells that control immunity.

"The concept of my work as an immunologist is looking for protective immunity from different pathogens," Joshi said, "but the dilemma is that many people around the world do not have an optimum immune system. It fails even after vaccination because of their socioeconomic situation, poverty, poor nutrition and hygiene. Their bodies cannot fight back."

Joshi began thinking about ways to "wake up" an immune system, giving it the tools it needs to drive away an intruder. His approach was sparked by an observation -- that the severely mentally disturbed who underwent electric shock therapy tended to get physically sick less often than others.

"I thought, 'Let's do an experiment where we can use electricity to actually change this sleeping immune system into awake,'" he said.

But it's not as simple as sending an electrical pulse through a person's body. Joshi's work focuses on stimulating specific lymph nodes at the cellular level, an approach that a person would never even feel, he said. …

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