Primary Faculty Research Interests & Profiles
Robert M. Blumenthal, Ph.D. – Distinguished University Professor - Dr. Blumenthal's laboratory is studying how bacteria control and coordinate the expression of their thousands of genes – particularly where the timing of gene expression is critical – and how that regulatory architecture is conserved or changed between different bacterial species. One focus is on a global regulator called Lrp, that (in Escherichia coli) affects the expression of several hundred genes and controls the bacterial transition between life in the digestive tract and life outside an animal host. A second focus is on an unusual, broad host-range transcription activator that controls a critical timing system in hundreds of restriction-modification (RM) systems. In bacterial RM systems, a nuclease cuts DNA entering from outside the cell; this might include viral DNA that would kill the cell, so the cutting protects the cell. However, the nuclease itself would kill the cell if it cuts the cell’s own DNA, so a second enzyme marks the cell’s own DNA with methyl groups and the nuclease will not cut it. The protective methyltransferase must be made earlier than the nuclease, to avoid killing the host bacterium. As RM systems are “gatekeepers” for gene flow between bacteria (including antibiotic resistance), understanding the timing mechanism is important. The third focus is on developing agents that interefere with bacterial quorum sensing, where certain genes are only turned on when invading bacteria reach a critical population size.
Viviana P. Ferreira, D.V.M., Ph.D. - Assistant Professor - Dr. Ferreira’s research effort is directed toward understanding
the mechanisms by which humans are able to protect their tissues from excessive, inadvertent
or bystander complement-mediated damage. The complement system is part of our body’s
innate defense system against pathogenic microorganisms or cells. In order to protect
host cells from damage by complement activation, the complement system uses a complex
set of regulator molecules that are either bound to cell surfaces or that are circulating
in the blood. Although complement activation is essential to the body’s defense system
and is tightly regulated it also contributes to the origin of many chronic and acute
Jason F. Huntley, Ph.D. - Assistant Professor - Dr. Huntley’s laboratory studies the complex interactions between respiratory pathogens and the mammalian host. Francisella tularensis is a highly-infectious bacterium that causes the deadly disease tularemia. Little is known about how F. tularensis causes disease or why the host immune system fails to control F. tularensis infection. Projects are currently underway to: (1) Identify F. tularensis surface proteins, examine changes in surface protein expression during infection, and characterize the roles of the surface proteins as virulence factors; (2) Use the previous information to develop and test new vaccine formulations that prevent F. tularensis infection and disease; (3) Analyze protective and non-protective immune responses to F. tularensis infection.
Jyl Matson, Ph.D. - Assistant Professor -Dr. Matson’s laboratory is interested in the mechanisms by which bacteria sense and respond to their extracellular environment. Vibrio cholerae is the bacterium that causes epidemic cholera, a disease that continues to spread in areas of the world where people lack access to clean drinking water. Due to increasing antibiotic resistance among V. cholerae strains, there is a need to develop additional therapeutic agents for cholera treatment. Current projects in the Matson lab include identification and characterization of small molecule inhibitors of a V. cholerae stress response pathway that may be developed into cholera therapeutics. Additional studies aim to characterize transcriptional responses of V. cholerae to various stresses to determine pathways associated with bacterial fitness and pathogenesis.
Isabel Novella, Ph.D.- Professor - Dr. Novella studies the evolution of viruses and how this knowledge
can help fight viral infections. Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) is used as a model
to study specific aspects of virus evolution and general issues of population genetics.
VSV is grouped together with important pathogens (measles, influenza, poliovirus,
HIV, hepatitis A, B and C viruses, etc.) among viruses whose genomic information is
stored in RNA instead of DNA. RNA replication is error-prone, and therefore many mutations
are constantly produced that allow extremely rapid evolution.
Z. Kevin Pan, M.D., Ph.D. - Professor - The main research interest of Dr. Pan's laboratory is to better understand the molecular basis of inflammatory diseases and further develop novel therapeutic strategies. In particular, his laboratory focuses on the following areas: inducible negative regulation of inflammatory responses; the host/pathogen interactions that lead to the development of several inflammatory diseases, including septic shock, rheumatoid arthritis, and airway inflammation.
Dorothea L. Sawicki, Ph.D. - Professor - Dr. Sawicki's research effort is directed toward determining the molecular
mechanisms governing RNA synthesis. The systems being studied utilize the alphaviruses
Sindbis and Semliki Forest viruses. These as well as other Togaviruses are of interest
because they produce disease in a variety of animals, including humans, and because
they replicate in invertebrate as well as vertebrate animals. A cDNA clone of Sindbis
that is capable of expressing infectious RNA genomes is being utilized to determine
the role of the viral nonstructural proteins in the alphavirus replication cycle.
Stanislaw Stepkowski, DVM, Ph.D., D.Sc. - Professor - Dr. Stepkowski's overall work is focused on the development of novel strategies: 1) to improve the survival of organ allografts, with emphasis on non-toxic immunosuppressive agents; 2) to induce permanent acceptance of allografts (transplantation tolerance); and 3) to increase survival of islet. Special efforts are made to better understand cytokine-induced signaling through Janus tyrosine kinases (Jaks) and signal transducers and activators of transcription (Stats) pathways in T cells. Undergoing work aims to identify novel regulatory phosphotyrosine sites in function of Jak3, using knock-in mice with mutated Jak3 sites. The role of Stat3 and Stat 5a/b transcription factors are explored in Stat3 and Stat5 conditional knockouts, respectively.
Akira Takashima, M.D., Ph.D. -Professor and Chairman - Dr. Takashima's major research interest is in the immuno-biology of specific leukocyte subsets known as dendritic cells (DCs), which play crucial roles in the induction of both innate and adaptive immunity. The objective in his laboratory are: a) to study molecular mechanisms regulating the function of DCs (Basic Immunology), and b) to develop novel DC-targeted immunotherapeutics (Applied Immunology). For the first objective, Dr. Takashima's group recently developed an intravital confocal imaging system that enables real-time visualization of dynamic 3D behaviors of DCs in living animals. To achieve the second objective, his group established a DC-based biosensor system as a high-throughput drug screening platform for the discovery of agents that deliver DC activation signals. Not only will these ongoing studies provide important insights into the mechanisms controlling the behaviors and functions of DCs under physiological and pathological conditions, they may also lead to the development of innovative therapeutic strategies for the prevention and treatment of cancer, infectious disease, autoimmune disorders, and organ transplantation.
R. Travis Taylor, Ph.D. - Assistant Professor - Dr. Taylor’s research is focused on the vector-borne members of the Flaviviridae family, including West Nile virus, dengue virus and tick-borne encephalitis virus. Flaviviruses are significant human pathogens and we currently have limited treatment options. By evaluating interactions of virus and cellular proteins, Dr. Taylor has identified key host proteins that are important to antiviral responses. Understanding the molecular mechanism of host responses, as well as strategies employed by viruses to evade them, is crucial to future work in the lab aimed at developing new and effective flavivirus-specific therapies.
Mark Wooten, Ph.D. - Associate Professor - Dr. Wooten's laboratory is interested in the host/pathogen
interactions that lead to the development of Lyme disease. Borrelia burgdorferi is
highly infectious and especially adept at evading host defenses and persisting in
various tissues, even in an apparently immunocompetent host. His research takes an
immunological approach to identification of host mechanisms involved in control of
spirochete persistence and in mediating the inflammatory pathology related to Lyme
Randall G. Worth, Ph.D. - Associate Professor - Dr. Worth's laboratory employs two lines of study directed at his interest in the role of FcyR's in inflammation and infection. At a basic science level, he is interested in identifying pathways involved in pathogen destruction within host phagolysosomes. Dr. Worth had identified certain membrane domains that participate in phagocytosis and may also be important in mediating phagosome-lysosome fusion. Dr. Worth also heads a translational project directed at understanding the role of platelets in such autoimmune diseases as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. This project is revealing exciting new ways that platelets respond to IgG-complexes and the important interface between thrombosis and inflammation.
Joint & Volunteer Faculty Appointments
Joan M. Duggan, M.D.
Medicine and Physiology & Molecular Medicine Division, Infectious Diseases
Department of Medicine - Health Science Campus
Brian Harrington, Ph.D., M.P.H.
HSC Public Health, Homeland Security
M. Bashar Kahaleh, M.D.
Chief, Division of Rheumatology
Department of Medicine - Health Science Campus
Richard W. Komuniecki, Ph.D.
Joan L. and Julius H. Professor of Biomedical Research
Distinguished University Professor
Department of Biological Sciences - Main Campus
Qing-Sheng Mi, M.D., Ph.D.
Henry Ford Health System
Director of Research, Department of Dermatology
Director, Henry Ford Hospital Immunology Program
Deepa Mukundan, M.D.
Assistant Professor Div. of Pediatric Infectious Diseases & Immunology
Department of Pediatrics - Health Science Campus
Consultant: Toledo Children's Hospital (Pediatric Infectious Disease)
Consultant: St. Vincent Mercy Children's Hospital (Pediatric Infectious Disease)
Thomas J. Papadimos, M.D., MPH
Professor of Anesthesiology
Department of Anesthesiology - Wexner Medical Center
The Ohio State University
Anthony Quinn, Ph.D.
Department of Biology - Main Campus
Michael A. Rees, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, Renal Transplantation and Kidney Paired Donation
Department of Urology - Health Science Campus
Hermann von Grafenstein, M.D., Ph.D.
Departments of Pharm.-Med/Bio Chem. - Main Campus
M.A. Julie Westerink, M.D.
Professor Chief, Division of Infectious Diseases Department of Medicine - Health Science Campus Joint Appointment