Hector Aguilar-Carreno, PhD

Name goes here

Department of Microbiology & Immunology

Associate Professor

Lab Website

Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
T8016A Veterinary Research Tower
Ithaca, NY 14853

Office: 607.253.4029
Email: ha363@cornell.edu

Research Interest

1] Viral entry. Within the Paramyxoviridae family, Nipah virus (NiV) and Hendra virus (HeV) cause the highest mortality rates (40-100%) in humans. This viral family includes important human and veterinary pathogens, such as measles, mumps, human parainfluenza, canine distemper, and Newcastle disease viruses. There are many questions regarding paramyxoviral infections that remain elusive. Our recent studies identified several novel domains in the viral glycoproteins G and F that are important for modulating the viral-cell membrane fusion process during viral entry, as well as cell-cell fusion upon viral infection of a host cell. We aim to understand the steps in the viral entry process these domains in G and F modulate. We use novel approaches that allow us to study the steps of viral entry, such as receptor binding, fusion triggering, hemifusion, fusion pore formation, and syncytia formation on cells and on virions. Novel approaches include Flow Virometry and Raman Spectroscopy.

2] Viral egress. Using multi-omics approaches, we recently identified cellular factors involved in viral entry, assembly, and budding out of infected cells. We are using this knowledge to study the mechanisms by which viral and cellular factors interact to modulate viral assembly and egress from infected host cells. Importantly, we connect this knowledge to the study of viral pathogenesis via established biosafety level 4 collaborations.

3] Immune responses and vaccine development. Viral-like particles are non-replication-competent units that resemble the respective actual viruses. Our data has shown that NiV and HeV viral-like particles are useful to generate highly-neutralizing conformational antibodies to NiV and HeV. We investigate whether NiV and HeV viral-like particles and pseudotyped viral particles can be useful vaccine platforms to protect against NiV, HeV, and other emerging paramyxoviruses and enveloped viruses beyond this family. We also investigate broadly applicable new technologies to advance vaccine development.

4] Antivirals. We take both empirical and targeted approaches. Our main interests include the search for antiviral agents with broad antiviral applications, with a special interest in those to be used against enveloped viruses. Our membrane fusion studies foster the discovery of broad-spectrum antivirals that target enveloped viruses. We characterize the mechanisms of action of several families of broad-spectrum antiviral compounds.


BS       Biochemical Engineering                   Institito Tecnologico de Tepic
MS      Biology                                            California State University, Los Angeles
PhD     Biochemistry and Mol. Biol.               University of Southern California

Biography/Professional Experience

Dr. Aguilar-Carreno (publication name Hector C. Aguilar) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Cornell University since July, 2017. He started his own research laboratory as an Assistant Professor at the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health at Washington State University (WSU). He received a B.S. degree in Biochemical Engineering from Instituto Tecnologico de Tepic, Mexico. He then immigrated to the USA and obtained a M.S. degree in Biology from California State University, Los Angeles, and a PhD degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from University of Southern California. He received post-doctoral training in Virology at University of California, Los Angeles, under the mentoring of Dr. Benhur Lee. At UCLA he helped identify the cell receptors for Nipah virus (NiV) and Hendra virus (HeV) and began to establish important tools to study NiV and HeV entry into mammalian host cells, as well as viral assembly/exit from infected cells. He is known for adopting technologies previously foreign to the field of Virology to the study of enveloped viruses, including Raman Spectroscopy, Super-resolution Microscopy, and Flow Virometry. His studies on viral entry and assembly inform novel ways to develop antivirals and vaccines. Dr. Aguilar-Carreno has served in many important scientific and diversity committees, including: Chair, WSU Immunology and Infectious Diseases Executive Committee; member, WSU CVM research committee; member, WSU Internal Governance Board for NIH T32 post-doctoral program; member, American Society for Virology Education Committee; Ad-hoc member, ~20 NIH study sections; Standing Member, VIR-A NIH study section; Chair and member, American Society of Microbiology Committee for Minority Education; Chair, Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine Diversity Committee; member, Cornell CVM  Research Committee; member, Cornell presidential postdoctoral fellowship committee; Chair, 7 PhD students; member, ~30 PhD student committees; among other roles.