Alirio Melendez is a medical professional and biomedical scientist with 17 years of experience.

Alirio MelendezThough he has studied multiple areas in the biomedical sciences, and has taught in subjects including molecular and cell biology, immunology, pharmacology, and physiology, Alirio Melendez is particularly interested in the area of immunopharmacology. It is a relatively new field, bringing together two areas in which he has done research in the past: immunology and pharmacology. Alirio is passionate about medical research, and particularly enjoys exploring new fields in order to expand his horizons and expertise.

Research is the most rewarding aspect of Alirio’s work: he loves attempting to understand why something is happening, and why. He is particularly interested in trying to identify key fissures in the molecular and cellular mechanisms of diseases, in order to devise and create ways in which to address them. There are many diseases for which we have no cure–cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis are just a few–and researchers are working to understand the interplay between pathogens, and how they can affect the immune system. Indeed, pathogens can either stop the immune system from working, or they can exacerbate the defense response, as is the case for septic shock or sepsis. Septic shock in particular is a disease that is extremely difficult to treat: though the infection could be cleared by the immune system and antibiotics, the root of the problem is the immune system itself, for its response damages sevral key organs. Alirio hopes to understand this mechanism more precisely, in order to target the molecular and cellular response of inflammation to develop novel therapies.

Alirio is also fascinated by the role of inflammation in different types of cancers. The immune system is a “fluid organ” that traverses the body through blood fluid, lymph nodes, the lymphatic system, etc.  Immune hormones like cytokines and chemokines can activate other immune cells and tissues, starting a form of chain reaction. When this is localized, it is fine; however, when it grows to a systematic level, the effects can be very negative. Indeed, the immune system, while able to kill cancer cells, can also help proliferate them because it is able to generate growth factors. These cytokines and chemokines generate new blood vessels, which tumors need to grow. If researchers could figure out how to cut the signal that leads to the growth of these cells, they may be able to stop tumor growth.

These examples and more motive Alirio to conduct research. He is also passionate about teaching: he believes that one can teach medical and science students not only the subject matter, but how to become better professionals. Understanding how our bodies work, how illness works, and how drugs work expands your thinking and reflection capacity, something that can be applied to any discipline.