Thomas Malek, Ph.D., is a Professor and Vice-Chair of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine.
Dr. Malek’s research program has focused on how Interleukin-2 (IL-2) and other related cytokines in this family control the development and function of T lymphocytes.
He is widely recognized for this work and has published extensively on this topic for more than 20 years. His recent research established that the main function for IL-2 is in the production of T regulatory cells, a T cell subset that functions to suppress autoreactive T cells.
Dr. Malek’s laboratory is currently working to better understand the molecular mechanism by which IL-2 controls this important population of T cells. In the course of these studies on T regulatory cells, his team has developed model systems in which adoptively transferred regulatory T cells prevent severe systemic autoimmunity while inducing transplantation tolerance to allografts. These protective effects are accompanied by life-long engraftment by the donor T regulatory cells.
The findings have important implications in type 1 diabetes, where new approaches are needed to control autoimmunity and islet transplant rejection.
Dr. Malek is applying his expertise to the DRI’s research program, adapting some of the basic principles uncovered in these systems to effectively utilize T regulatory cells as therapeutic agents in pre-clinical models of autoimmune diabetes.