Undergraduate Student, Level IV
I am currently in my fourth year of the Health Sciences (Honours) program with a specialization in Biomedical Sciences at McMaster University. I have always been interested in human health and disease but after taking a class in human physiology I was immediately drawn to the complex nature of the immune system. I am amazed by the body’s ability to mount such an intricate attack on various pathogens with such specificity and efficiency. I am further interested in the possibility of using the immune system, specifically Natural Killer (NK) cells, as a way to treat cancer.
My third year project attempts to shed light on the timeline of NK cell surface marker CD56 expression in expanded NK cells by exploring the phenotype, function, and metabolic profile of regulatory uterine NK cells pre- and post-expansion. Uterine NK cells are a unique subset to explore as they serve regulatory and protective functions in the placenta and represent a CD56superbrightCD16- phenotype. Previous work in the lab has indicated that expanded peripheral blood NK cells, which possess highly cytotoxic capabilities, contain a CD56superbrightCD16+ phenotype. Our question inquires whether this unique phenotype arises from alterations of the CD56dim, CD56bright, or some intermediate NK cell subset. It will thus be interesting to investigate how uterine NK cells, which already have the CD56superbright phenotype but are pro-tumour and non-cytotoxic, alter after expansion. In addition to phenotypic analysis, I will analyze changes in uterine NK cell function after expansion such as; metabolic changes, cytokine secretion, and cytotoxic capability.