Multiple Sclerosis Center

Research Assistant Professor

College of Medicine
Department of Neurology

Biomedical Research Tower
460 W 12th Ave., Room 0604
Columbus, Ohio 43210

Research Interests: I am interested in understanding molecule mechanisms that regulate CNS autoimmunity, with the goals of both identifying therapeutic targets and developing innovative therapies to treat patients. Using immunological and molecular approaches, I am focused on two questions:

  1. What are the major determinants that trigger inflammatory pathways in myelin-specific CD4 T cells in Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
  2. How can we suppress the development and progression of CNS autoimmunity?

Current research projects:

  1. Determine the primary causes of T cell encephalitogenicity and characterize their therapeutic potential.
Autoreactive myelin-specific CD4 T-cells mediate the formation of acute MS lesson in CNS, and I would like to understand the role of different key molecules in regulating T cell encephalitogenicity.
  1. I am trying to determine if IL-7Rα and its inhibitory receptors such as PD-1 and LAG-3 can regulate the cell-intrinsic of effector functions of myelin-specific CD4 T cells.
  2. These molecules help to regulate T effector responses and play an important role in the development of autoimmune diabetes, but it is currently unclear whether they regulate myelin-specific CD4 T cells in CNS autoimmunity.
  3. I am trying to determine the role of Blimp-1 in regulating myelin-specific CD4 T cells during disease progression in the EAE model of MS. Myelin-reactive CD4 T cells from MS patients display a memory phenotype. In EAE, the activation and differentiation behavior of CD4 T helper cells has been well-characterized, but very little is known about the molecule mechanisms that regulate the later stage of T cell maturation—the memory formation and reactivation of memory myelin-specific CD4 T cells.
  4. I am interested at identifying the key molecule critical for the formation and reactivation of these memory T cells, which may lead to novel therapeutic targets. Blimp-1 plays a critical role in regulating terminal differentiation and memory formation of B cells and CD8 T cells and is a leading candidate in these studies.
  1. New MS therapies that target the IL-6/STAT3 signaling pathway.

Current treatments for MS are only partially effective, and new drugs are needed. My previous work has demonstrated that IL-6 is critical for the development of highly encephalitogenic Th17 cells during disease progression in EAE, an animal model of MS. Therefore, I am developing small molecule compounds that target the IL-6/STAT3 signaling pathway and testing their efficacy in the EAE model of MS and with T cells from MS patients.

Research techniques: Flow cytometry, ELISA, cell culture, siRNA transfection, RNA purification, real time PCR, EAE induction in mice.

Active Funding: NIH R01: Small molecule in vivo probe development targeting the IL-6/STAT3 pathway for potential multiple sclerosis therapy. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF NEUROLOGICAL DISORDERS AND STROKE, 05/1/2015-04/30/2018

PubMed articles

Education:
1991 MD Medicine Tongji Medical University, Wuhan, China
1996 MS Molecular Biology Tongji Medical University, Wuhan, China

Fellowships:
1999-2003 Research Fellow Molecular Biology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas
2004-2006 Research Fellow Neuroimmunology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas
2006-2011 Research Fellow Neuroimmunology at The Ohio State University Medical Center

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