Regulating complement

Dr Lilian Hor is investigating the complement system with real-time molecular movies

By Dr Giselle Roberts

Dr Lilian Hor is a postdoctoral fellow in the Wijeyewickrema lab. She specialises in the complement system: part of the innate immune response that plays a critical role in the body’s defence against disease.

“When a pathogen invades your body, the complement system helps to remove it,” she said. “I study a particular class of proteins called proteases that are responsible for activating this process.”

“The complement system is highly regulated. When everything is in balance, it functions well. But when things are unbalanced it can result in excess inflammation and tissue damage. If we can better understand the activation of complement then we can find ways to improve regulation.”

Dr Hor is also a member of the Centre of Excellence in Advanced Molecular Imaging, where she is working with Dr Brian Abbey to image complement regulation in real time. “On this project we are taking our expertise in the complement system, Dr Abbey’s expertise in imaging, and putting it together to make molecular movies,” she said.

“It has been really refreshing to work with different types of minds, and to watch physicists design prototype devices, which is so different to what we do in our lab. As biologists we are the end users of the technology that physicists are building and pioneering. It is amazing to get an understanding of how they do that.”

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