Autoimmunity is thought to result from a combination of genetics, environmental triggers, and stochastic events. The multitude of susceptibility genes, symptoms and immunological abnormalities suggest the involvement of numerous pathogenic pathways. The role of exogenous triggers, especially environmental factors, in eliciting autoimmunity has been well established. However there is no clear understanding of the diversity of disease mechanisms that may exist among known inducers of autoimmunity. This is a significant barrier in understanding the totality of the autoimmune disease process and its treatment. Our research seeks to identify mechanisms of systemic autoimmunity and the role that environmental agents play in the initiation and/or exacerbation of autoimmune disease. Together with collaborators at TSRI and elsewhere we pioneered the use of mercury-induced autoimmunity (HgIA) as a model for the study of environmental-induced systemic autoimmunity. This model has many advantages over most other models of systemic autoimmunity and has allowed us to examine numerous mechanistic facets of autoimmune disease.
Currently we focus on three major areas of investigation: