Testing T-cells

Biologist Yuko Miyamoto works with students to solve a piece of the cancer puzzle.

If a population of immune cells is treated with an immunosuppressant, would that compromise the body’s ability to defend against microbes or other harmful organisms?

Using a background in immunology and cell biology, Yuko Miyamoto, the Japeth E. Rawls Professor for Undergraduate Research in Science, works to answer that question. It’s a lengthy process, but it gives this faculty-mentor ample opportunity to provide an exceptional experience for the students working on undergraduate research.

Using T-cells, a type of white blood cell that fights diseases, as a model, Miyamoto and her students examine how different kinds of proteins in the cell are impacted when the immune cells are treated with the immunosuppressant, Rapamycin. An immunosuppressant reduces the strength of the body’s immune system and is typically used to prevent the body from rejecting a transplanted organ.

The work enables students to look at cancer cells and cell migration. From learning how to handle the cells, to keeping them alive and uncontaminated to doing biochemical experiments and analysis, the process provides ample lessons to train good scientists. The research also helps students become better thinkers and allows them to develop many of the skills necessary to qualify for sought-after positions in the biomedical field.

It takes a lot of baby steps but it is incredibly rewarding to see a student pull everything together. Even though they understand this might be a very small part of the bigger picture of science, that they were able to do this at Elon is a really great experience.

Miyamoto and her students have presented at several national conferences because of their work to understand basic T-cell biology and cell migration. Long term, the goal for the research is that it will serve as a piece of a complicated puzzle that could potentially lead to better understanding of immunotherapy and other treatment options for cancer and other diseases. Regardless, the work they publish contributes to the literature, which can fill in gaps and serve as a steppingstone for another scientist’s research.

Joined Elon’s Faculty:

  • 2005


  • Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston
  • Bachelor of Science in Pharmacology from the University of California at Santa Barbara

Presentations and Works to be Submitted for Publication:

  • "Effects of Rapamycin on PYK2 and Paxillin in Jurkat T cells" Yuko J. Miyamoto, Morgan J. Gregg, Adem Cosgel. American Society for Cell Biology, San Francisco, CA, December 3-7, 2016
  • "The Manipulation of FAP Expression and Its Role in SDF-1 and IL-6 Secretion by Fibroblasts and Melanoma Cells" Zachary Fisher and Yuko J. Miyamoto
  • "Evaluating Changes in T Cell Activation by Measuring Expression of CTLA-4, IL-2, NFAT, and NF-kB in Jurkat Cells” Jackie Bement and Yuko J. Miyamoto
  • “Examining the Role of mTOR in T cell Proliferation and Migration Under Immunosuppression by Rapamycin” Morgan J. Gregg1, Matthew J. Billard2, Teresa K. Tarrant 2, Yuko J. Miyamoto 1
    1 Elon University, Department of Biology, 2 Thurston Arthritis Research Center, UNC Chapel Hill Department of Medicine American Society for Cell Biology, San Francisco, CA, December 15-19, 2012