Professor Xiao-Ning Xu is an immunologist formerly based at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine. In collaboration with scientists from China and other institutions, his research focuses on HIV and influenza A infection in humans. The aim of this research is to establish which types of immune responses provide protective immunity. Professor Xu studies samples from patients infected naturally by viruses, as well as healthy people immunized by vaccines, therefore, access to samples from clinical trials and cohort studies is essential. The aim of this research is to provide data, which can be used in the development of powerful immunotherapies, and effective vaccines.
Professor Xiao-Ning Xu talks about his research on emerging infectious diseases in China, from the SARS outbreak in 2003/4 to flu pandemic and HIV infection.
Quick steps were taken within 3 months of the SARS outbreak, and T cell immune responses were studied in the SARS cohort. Unresolved questions however remain, such as the reservoir of this virus, whether the T cell response provides any protective immunity, and if we can produce a vaccine.
Given the threat of a new influenza virus pandemic, T cell and antibody responses are measured before and after the flu season. Whereas protective immunity is mediated by neutralizing antibodies, T cells may limit the severity of influenza infection by new strains in the absence of specific antibody responses.
Professor Xu also follows a HIV cohort in Beijing, and studies their T cell responses to the HIV conserved region. The stimulation of HIV-specific cytolytic T lymphocytes offers a new strategy for vaccine development.