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Dr Rachel Allen’s work on the molecular and cellular basis of immune system function is providing insight into multiple conditions, including HIV infection.

Dr Rachel Allen has a long-standing interest in links between human leukocyte antigen (HLA) alleles and risk of disease. In particular, she has been studying an unusual family of receptors – leukocyte immunoglobulin-like receptors (LILRs) – mainly found on myeloid cells. Although part of the innate immune response, they also influence adaptive immunity by altering the ability of myeloid cells to stimulate T-cell responses.

In 2011, she discovered that LILRs varied in their affinity for different HLA alleles. Working with American research groups, she has gone on to show that this differential recognition has biological and medical relevance – notably, the strength of interactions between innate immune receptors and HLA correlate with the degree of control of HIV infection.



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