Cell Signaling in Autoimmunity

In the last couple of years, our study of innate immune cells, the availability of single cell RNA sequencing and the availability of both human and non-human models of autoimmune disease gives us a unique opportunity to better understand how cell to cell signaling changes drive autoimmune onset and disease progression.

Our collaboration with the Harris laboratory is allowing us to study autoimmune disease in humans. The relatively plentiful availability of human samples obtained through non-invasive sample acquisition techniques opens up the possibility of uncovering the molecular bases of autoimmune progression in humans. Our recently funded approach is to transcriptional profile blister fluid using both bulk and single cell RNA-Seq techniques from individuals affected with skin autoimmune conditions such as Vitiligo, Lupus and Psoriasis to characterize differences, at the individual cell types, between healthy individuals and patients.

To complement human centric approaches we are collaborating with the Diabetes Center of Excellence at UMMS using a virally triggered type 1 diabetes rat model to dissect the changes in signaling between the different cell types that leads to full blown disease in a controlled disease model.

The combination of animal disease models and direct human samples across different autoimmune disease allow us to use comparative analysis to dissect genomic signatures that predispose to disease as well as common and disease specific mechanisms that exploit this predisposition.