|Samuel Speck, Ph.D.
Area of Research: Basic
The research of Dr. Samuel Speck focuses on Epstein-Barr virus
and murine gammaherpesvirus-68, to understand the molecular mechanisms
by which these viruses establish persistent, chronic infections
that cannot be cleared by the body. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
infection, which is commonly known for causing infectious mononucleosis,
also is the cause of endemic Burkitt’s lymphoma, a type
of cancer that primarily strikes children in the malaria belt
of Africa. EBV also is associated with 30-50 percent of cases
of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that tends to occur in
As the Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar
in Molecular Pathogenesis, Dr. Speck is Director of the Center
Infectious Diseases at Emory. He also is a Professor in the
Division of Microbiology and Immunology of the Yerkes
National Primate Research Center of Emory. Prior to his 1999 arrival at Emory,
he was a Professor in the Department of Pathology at Washington
University School of Medicine. Dr. Speck received his Ph.D.
in biochemistry and molecular biology from Northwestern University.
Dr. Speck was recently recruited from The Washington University
School of Medicine and officially came on board here at Emory
in June 2001. He is a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar
and Endowed Professor, and Director, Center for Emerging Infectious
Diseases, Department of Microbiology & Immunology, Emory
University School of Medicine.
The research in Dr. Speck’s
lab focuses on 2 gamma-herpesviruses, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
and murine gamma-herpesvirus 68 (HV68). A major property of
herpesviruses is their ability to persist for life in the infected individual.
The gamma-herpesviruses are known to latently infect either B or T lymphocytes,
and to be associated with the development of lymphoma and lymphoproliferative
diseases. Their major interests are to understand: (i) how these viruses regulate
viral gene expression during latency; (ii) how they modulate and avoid the host
immune response; and (iii) how they switch from a latent infection to replication
of the viral genome (referred to as reactivation), a process that is essential
for propagation of these viruses to uninfected individuals. Their research on
EBV focuses on tissue culture models that recapitulate the various EBV genetic
programs. The information gained from these studies is then employed to address
the behavior of EBV in infected individuals. However, because there are no small
animal models for studying EBV pathogenesis, they use HV68 infection of mice
to address specific issues of the host response to gamma-herpesvirus infection.
HV68 infection of mice causes several different chronic diseases in immunocompromised
mice, including a severe vasculitis that affects the great elastic arteries and
lymphoproliferative disease. Speck and his team are currently identifying HV68
genes involved in establishing and maintaining viral latency, as well as those
involved in the development of chronic disease. In addition, they are actively
characterizing the host response to viral infection to address how viral latency
and persistent infection is controlled.