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Chisari To Give Kinyoun Lecture, Oct. 14

Dr. Francis V. Chisari, a professor at the Scripps Research Institute, will give this year's Joseph J. Kinyoun lecture on Thursday, Oct. 14, at 2 p.m. in Lipsett Amphitheater, Bldg. 10. Chisari is well-known for his discovery that the immune system's so-called killer T cells also have a kinder, gentler side. His lecture is titled "The Host-Virus Standoff During Persistent Viral Infections."

Since 1975, Chisari has studied the host-virus interactions that determine the outcome of hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections in the liver. Among his discoveries is the immunologic mechanism that allows the body to rid itself of HBV and HCV. He also demonstrated that when the immune system fails to clear these infections, immune-mediated liver injury underlies the development of HBV- and HCV-induced liver cancer.

Dr. Francis V. Chisari
In 1999, Chisari and his colleagues determined that killer T cells release chemicals, called cytokines, that cause HBV-infected liver cells to purge themselves of the virus without killing themselves. This cell-sparing action surprised many immunologists — including Chisari — because it was thought that killer T cells' main function is to destroy infected body cells. But some viruses, including HBV, can infect most or all cells in a vital organ; destruction of all infected cells would be catastrophic.

Using a transgenic mouse model of HBV infection that they developed, Chisari and his colleagues found that the cell-sparing action of killer T cells dominates in the response to HBV infection. Often, the twin actions of killer T cells can completely eliminate the virus with minimal loss of liver cells. However, some 350 million people worldwide are chronically infected by HBV because they do not mount an adequate T-cell response.

Chronic infection causes steady, slow destruction of liver cells by killer T cells and the inflammation and scarring characteristic of cirrhosis. Cirrhosis can kill people with chronic HBV or HCV infection, who also bear a greatly increased risk of developing liver cancer. Chisari says his research is driven by a lifelong desire to aid people with chronic HBV and HCV by better understanding the processes underlying viral persistence. A key aim of his current research is finding ways to boost the immune response in chronically infected people.

A native of New York, Chisari earned a B.A. degree, magna cum laude, from Fordham University, and received his medical degree from Cornell University Medical College in 1968. He completed an internship in internal medicine at the New York Hospital-Cornell University Medical Center and was a resident in internal medicine at Dartmouth Medical School. His training in immunopathology included a position as staff associate in the Division of Biologics Standards, NIH, where he helped demonstrate the transmissibility of HBV to chimpanzees.

In 1988, Chisari became head of the division of experimental pathology and in 1989 was named director of the General Clinical Research Center at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. His service to NIH has been extensive, including service on NIAID's blue ribbon panel on bioterrorism research, the NIAID expert panel on immunity and biodefense and ad hoc membership on the NIAID board of scientific counselors.

Chisari has received many honors including election to fellowship in the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Microbiology. He was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2002 and of the Institute of Medicine in 2003. This year he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Weill-Cornell University Medical College. He is an author or editor of several textbooks, including The Liver: Biology and Pathobiology.

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