Deborah Burshtyn


Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry - Medical Microbiology and Immunology Dept


Area of Study / Keywords

Immunology Innate Lymphoid Cells Transplantation Immunogenetics Receptor Biology innate immunity cytomegalovirus immune evasion viral immunology natural killer cells receptor signalling


In addition to my research, I am passionate about the quality of graduate education advocating for student-centered mentorship and the need for transparent learning.  From 2015-2019, I served at the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research as Associate Dean, Vice Dean, and most recently as Interim Dean.  Currently I am Chairing a taskforce for the Canadian Association of Graduate Schools on the future excellence in graduate education.

I am Scientific Officer for the CIHR Project Immunology and Transplantation committee and a review editor for Frontiers in Immunology.  In the past I was Section Editor for the Journal of Immunology and was the ualberta node lead for the CHIR Human Immunology Network.

I am a member of the Alberta Transplant Institute, The Li Ka Shing Institute for Virology, an affiliate of the Canadian Donation and Transplant Research Network.

I am Vice President of the Board of Partners in Research, an organization dedicated to celebrating outreach by scientists and science education in the K-12 system.


We want to understand how genetic diversity in innate immune receptors impacts the outcome of chronic and opportunistic infections.  Our current focus is on the receptor known as LILRB1 that is expressed on several types of immune cells and targeted by several viruses such as Dengue and cytomegalovirus to disrupt the immune response.  The receptor is also targeted by cancer cells to escape the immune response by expression of the molecule HLA-G.  

We are studying the mechanisms that lead to higher virus replication and the linkage genetic variants to expression patterns on innate lymphocytes (natural killer cells) and the interaction with host and viral proteins.

Our most recent work published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation links particular genetic variants to replication of cytomegalovirus in transplant patients.  As activation of cytomegalovirus is a common complication post-transplant, we are currently pursing studies to refine the predictiveness of the genetic associations with a view to biomarker development to select patients who would most benefit from pre-emptive therapy.

We are also studying the interaction of other members of this receptor family in the context of neural-inflammation.