Hector Aguilar-Carreno’s primary research interest is the elucidation of the mechanisms of entry of enveloped viruses into mammalian host cells. Dr. Aguilar obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California where he studied retrovirus membrane fusion and viral entry. He did his post-doctoral training in Dr. Benhur Lee’s laboratory at UCLA, where he co-discovered the henipavirus receptors, and established several new assays to study receptor-mediated Nipah virus entry. He is now an Assistant Professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Global Animal Health and in the Dept. of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology, and an Associate faculty in the School of Molecular Biosciences at Washington State University.
Viral-cell membrane fusion is a crucial step during entry of enveloped viruses into their mammalian host cells. In addition, for some viruses (e.g. some paramyxoviruses), viral infection induces the pathological cell-cell fusion (syncytia). Dr. Aguilar lab uses multidisciplinary approaches to study viral-cell and cell-cell membrane fusion that combine the fields of biochemistry, molecular biology, immunology, and biophysics, focusing mainly on the deadly Nipah and Hendra viruses as model systems. The Aguilar lab recently developed new quantitative and kinetic techniques to study how the membrane fusion cascade is “triggered” by viral attachment to the host cell receptors. Dr. Aguilar thinks that a combination of multi-disciplinary approaches will lead to antiviral strategies that may be applicable beyond these deadly zoonotic viruses, having profound effects in global human and animal health.