Liwu Li

  • Biological Sciences
  • College of Science


Dr. Li studies innate immune memory underlying both acute and chronic inflammation. His group has defined mechanisms governing the novel paradigms such as differential polarization and skewing of immune environment as well as priming and tolerance of macrophages. These dynamic paradigms play key roles during both the pathogenesis and resolution of human inflammatory diseases such as atheroschlerosis, sepsis, wound healing, and cancer.


Inflammation is the body's response to diverse challenge, whether it be microbial (ex: bacteria), chemical (ex:food), emotional (ex: stress), or physical (ex: car accident). A balanced and well-controlled inflammatory process is essential for host defense and repair. On the other hand, skewed or run-away inflammation underlies the pathogenesis of diverse human diseases including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and infectious diseases. Understanding the proper balance that governs progression and resolution of inflammation holds the key for the prevention and treatment of human diseases.

Supported by grants from NIH, Dr. Li and his research team seek to unravel the dynamic circuitry that governs the balance of inflammatory responses at cellular and molecular levels. Specifically, Dr. Li is studying the novel establishment of innate immune memory in macrophages and T helper cells. Macrophages can be skewed into either an inflammatory or anergic phenotype, depending upon the magnitude of external stimulants. The dynamic balance among several interwoven pathways may tilt the macrophages to opposing directions. Similar paradigm occurs in T helper cells. The competing dynamics between these phenotypes eventually dictate the inflammatory environment and the outcome of disease pathogenesis. Dr. Li's team employs integrated approaches to define key molecules and circuits in macrophages and T helper cells. Using murine models, Dr. Li studies the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, cancer, and sepsis, as well as potential pharmacological interventions. Dr. Li's team consists of post-docs, graduate and undergraduate students. In addition to this active research program, Dr. Li teaches the course of Inflammation Biology.