Tuberculosis causes more than one million deaths per year worldwide. Our laboratory combines model organism genetics, high-resolution intravital microscopy and human genetics to understand the host immune response to mycobacterial infection. Using a zebrafish model of infection, we have been able to record, analyze and manipulate calcium dynamics in the vertebrate immune system in whole, live animals. This model has provided new insights into tuberculosis susceptibility and mycobacterial pathogenesis. Pathogenic mycobacteria manipulate calcium levels, and we have recorded and analyzed in vivo calcium dynamics in whole animals. We are identifying key ion channels in the host that mediate these responses and are working to understand how pathogenic mycobacteria are able to subvert calcium signaling for their own survival. Finally, we are developing new tools and transgenic lines to spatially and temporally manipulate calcium dynamics in specific immune cell subsets.
David Tobin, a 2013 Vallee Scholar, is an Associate Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at Duke University, where his research focuses on understanding genetic susceptibility to tuberculosis and the host immune response to mycobacterial infection. He trained as a graduate student with Cori Bargmann at the University of California, San Francisco and completed a postdoctoral fellowship with Lalita Ramakrishnan at the University of Washington. He is also a recipient of the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, a Searle Scholar Award, a Mallinckrodt Scholar Award, an ICAAC Young Investigator Award and a Whitehead Scholar Award. Before beginning his postdoctoral fellowship, he lived and taught in Guatemala, where he continues to collaborate.