McMaster University


McMaster University





Karen Mossman


Karen Mossman, PhD


Associate Member
Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences

Professor - Pathology and Molecular Biology
Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Learning and Discovery

McMaster University
905-525-9140 - Ext. 23542

Visit Karen Mossman's Homepage


  • Cell Biology and Regulation

The focus of our research is to understand how viruses evade host immune defenses. When a virus infects a host, the host mounts an impressive immune response aimed at preventing the virus from multiplying and spreading. Viruses have evolved strategies to block this response in order to ensure their survival. Probably the most important aspect of the host immune response to virus infection is the production of an immune modulator called interferon. Interferon has a great impact on host defense mechanisms and as a result viruses have evolved multiple strategies to overcome its activities. We are currently studying the mechanisms of interferon inhibition and the countermeasures taken by different viruses.

These studies have led us to developing viruses for use in gene therapy and cancer therapy. The virus that we focus on is herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) which is a human pathogen that causes cold sores. We have found that by disabling the virus through removal of particular genes, the virus can grow in cancer cells and kill these cells while having no effect on healthy cells. Such viruses, called "oncolytic viruses" are currently being tested as a novel approach to cancer therapy in the hopes of eliminating tumors without the toxic side effects associated with many current treatments. HSV-1 is also being studied as a tool for gene therapy, since it is easy to manipulate, it can be targeted to specific tissues and it can house several therapeutic genes in a single vector. Thus, overall, our goal is to understand how viruses and their hosts interact with each other so that we can use viruses as tools for the treatment of multiple diseases.

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