Impact of climate change on immune resilience         

PI Georgia Tomaras, Center for Human Systems Immunology, Department of Surgery

Kate Hoffman, Nicholas School of the Environment

Stephanie Langel, School of Medicine, Department of Surgery

Keith Reeves, School of Medicine, Department of Surgery

A-Andrew D Jones, Pratt School of Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Cliburn Chan, Duke Human Vaccine Institute, Department of Surgery

Jason Stout, School of Medicine, Department of Medicine

Wilton Williams, School of Medicine, Department of Medicine

Jon Fjeld, Fuqua School of Business

Extrinsic and intrinsic stimuli can shape a person’s baseline immune response phenotype that impacts their responsiveness to vaccination and immunotherapy. Climate as an extrinsic factor can shape immune function and accordingly climate change is likely to alter the immune response in a variety of ways, but data remain severely limited. Identifying modifiable factors that can be targeted to improve human immune resilience is critical in promoting public health. Our team brings together Duke SOM, Nicholas School of the Environment, Pratt School of Engineering, Fuqua School of Business, School of Nursing, and Community with the ambitious goal of defining key environmental and intrinsic causes for human immune resilience and engineer interventions to optimally modulate immune function in a rapidly changing world.

We will focus on interrelated stimuli including climate and its shifting outcomes (environmental contaminant exposures, biological exposures and physiologic stimuli) evaluating which factors maximize or dampen immune resilience over the lifespan. Existing central North Carolina cohorts enable detailed longitudinal immune and environmental measurements.

Our primary technologies include the most cutting-edge assessments of environmental exposures, systems immunology, and engineering approaches to define variation in human immune responses to perturbations and stressors to build knowledge on how to augment and maintain immune resilience against climate change. 

Aim 1. Engineer biosensors and the infrastructure to capture and integrate data streams from the environmental, biological, and physiologic stimuli.  

Aim 2. Define and integrate systems immunology variables that are perturbed by extrinsic stimuli with baseline state (family and medical history, genomics and epigenomics, aging, and senescence).

Aim 3. Validate key extrinsic and intrinsic stimuli that perturb immune resilience through innovative engineering of biological materials (e.g., 3D printed tissues and organoids).

We broadly envision the design of personalized immune algorithms for informing clinical care and implementing new types of immune and environment sourcing data as part of community-based and individualized health decisions for immune resilience in the face of advancing climate change.