Dr. Way’s research investigates the pathogenesis and immune response to infection with an emphasis on pathogens that negatively impact the health of infants and children. Considering the natural susceptibility to infection during early infancy and among expecting mothers, particular focus is placed on establishing immune defects during these unique developmental windows. The laboratory has developed pregnancy models whereby maternal immune components with fetal specificity can be identified. Using these tools, the immunological shifts required to sustain fetal tolerance during normal pregnancy and mechanistic insights to explain how maternal infection may trigger pregnancy complications stemming from fractured fetal tolerance including stillbirth, prematurity, and preeclampsia have been uncovered. A second area of investigation is the immunological basis for infection susceptibility among newborn infants. Dr. Way’s laboratory has uncovered the importance of active immune suppression that fosters colonization with commensal microbes in the transition from a sterile in utero environment in blunting immune responsiveness with ensuing infection susceptibility in neonates. Ongoing studies are now aimed at dissecting the molecular and cellular basis whereby immune components uniquely respond to microbes during pregnancy, in utero development, and early infancy that may dissociate their protective and detrimental roles. The long-term goal of this work is to design improved therapeutic and prevention strategies to minimize infection induced morbidity and mortality, especially in the highly vulnerable periods of pregnancy and early infancy. Dr. Way’s research has received ongoing and prior support from the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, and March of Dimes Foundation.
Sing Sing Way, MD, PhD