Immunogenomics 2014: Christophe Benoist

As the opening night keynote speaker at the HudsonAlpha-Science Immunogenomics 2014 conference, Sept. 29-Oct. 1, Dr. Christophe Benoist, M.D., Ph.D., will discuss his research as a molecular immunologist.

For more than three decades, his research has been expanding the understanding of the disease mechanisms underlying type 1 diabetes and similar autoimmune disorders.

Currently a professor of microbiology and immunobiology at Harvard Medical School, Benoist received his medical training in France and completed postdoctoral studies at Stanford University.

Central to the research of Benoist and his colleagues is the determination of what triggers the immune system to attack and destroy insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas of people with type 1 diabetes.

Unlike the far more common type 2 diabetes, in which the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin, type 1 diabetes indicates that the pancreas produces little or no insulin needed to allow glucose to enter cells to produce energy.

Concerning their studies, Benoist said, “Our genomes introduce changes in the immune system early on.” Influencing how a person’s body responds to additional risk factors encountered over a lifetime, the changes determine the degree of susceptibility to triggering a disease.

In 1983, in collaboration with Diane Mathis, Ph.D., Benoist established an immunology research laboratory in Strasbourg, France, which they subsequently relocated to Harvard in 1999.

The Benoist/Mathis lab works in the field of T cell tolerance and autoimmunity, attempting to decipher the molecular and cellular mechanisms that control T cell differentiation, the acquisition and maintenance of immunological tolerance or its failure in autoimmune diseases.

Having generated a number of important mouse models of tolerance and autoimmunity, current lab investigations use a broad range of systems immunology approaches to decipher immunoregulation in both mice and humans and the microbiome’s influence on these processes.

In addition to his work at the Benoist/Mathis lab, Benoist is an associate faculty member at The Broad Institute, an affiliated faculty member of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and a leader in the Immunological Genome Project consortium–a collaborative group of immunologists and computational biologists who are generating a complete microarray dissection of gene expression and its regulation in the immune system of the mouse.

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