Autoimmunity; Gene Expression; Immunology; Molecular Basis of Disease; Neurobiology; Regulation of metabolism
RESEARCH: My scientific journey began with an interest in metabolism and hepatic encephalopathy where we demonstrated for the first time that it was not ammonia per se but glutamine that was the culprit in this setting. I subsequently transitioned to 'complement in kidney and brain'. My research consists of two arms, kidney and brain during chronic and acute diseases such as glomerulonephritis, sepsis and lupus. Both the organs contain specialized filtration units, the glomeruli and blood-brain barrier respectively. The focus of my lab is aimed at understanding the role of the complement cascade, an important arm of the innate immune systems in health and disease. The complement system forms the fulcrum, where the two arms of the lab, kidney and brain, collide. Recently, our understanding of the immune system has undergone a substantial paradigm shift: researchers now recognize that the innate immune system, the body’s first line of defense, assesses the level of danger of a particular event and initiates an adaptive immune response that subsequently confers protection. The complement system participates in forming the link between the adaptive and innate immune systems.
We made a couple of novel findings in the field: (a) CR1 on RBCs is the immune adherence receptor (IAR) in humans while the rodent IAR remained unknown. To fill this lacuna was very important since animal models are critical to understand the underlying mechanisms in disease. For the first time, our work showed that complement factor H (FH) is the IAR in rodents (J Biol Chem. 276(34):32129-35); (b)Traditionally the complement proteins such as FH were thought to be generated by the liver. More recently, for the first time our work has shown that FH is generated intracellularly in kidney endothelial cells and is of functional relevance (Kidney International, in press, 2021). At present, using novel animal models that we have generated, we are studying the role of FH at the different locale and its implications in health and disease. On receiving the Fulbright fellowship, I have begun studying the lupus microbiome in collaboration with Christian Medical College, Vellore, India. For many of the kidney and brain diseases, an effective therapy remains an enigma. Using a gamut of techniques, including novel animal and in vitro models, we are attempting to define the molecular mechanisms involved in disease and the resulting behavioral aberrations. Once molecular targets are identified, therapeutic strategies will be defined.
TEACHING & MENTORSHIP: My student interactions include teaching in UB’s Discovery Seminar Program, which is geared for first- and second-year undergraduates; conducting workshops for undergraduates and PhD students through CLIMB; and mentoring students through the CLIMB-PRO and CSTEP programs. For the first time, I have initiated a course for undergraduates by the Department of Medicine, that will give them insights into the exciting research that is ongoing in the department. I will also teach a cell biology course in Fall 2021. My mentees include medical students, premeds, those that joined curious to gain insight into biology and have continued for research in Carver School of Medicine, Iowa and graduate students that have proceeded for research at the NIH. My teaching portfolio also includes going out into the community and teaching in the community colleges.
PEER RECOGNITION: I have been invited to present my work at meetings and at local, national and international institutions. I am a member of grant review boards for several organizations, local, national and international, including serving as a Chair for the international and american grant review committees of the American Association of University Women, USA and as a NIH standing study section member. I have chaired sessions at the American Association of Immunology, American Society of Neurochemistry and the International Society of Neurochemistry. I have received awards of recognition from local, national and international organizations.