Vibha Jha

University of Colorado

I started my research journey under the supportive and intelligent guidance of Dr. Monestier at Temple University. He was studying the immunological pathways that induce tolerance toward autoimmune disease induced by mercury-chloride in mice. Regulatory T cells (Tregs; CD4+, CD25hi, Foxp3+) are one of the important factors that control immunological tolerance. Lymphocyte activation gene-3 (LAG-3) is employed by Tregs for optimum suppressive activity. For my PhD project, I generated LAG-3-deficient mice that developed autoimmune disease when exposed to sub-toxic levels of mercury-chloride, indicating that LAG-3 is essential for establishing and maintaining tolerance toward mercury chloride. I joined Dr. Adams lab as a postdoctoral trainee to study the regulatory roles of dendritic cells (DC) in mouse model of ovarian cancer. I used flow cytometry to show that mice suffering from late stage ovarian cancer have high percentages of CD 11a-, 11b+, 103+ DCs which negatively regulate the immunological responses by T cells. I continued my post doc experience in Dr. Atchison’s lab at University of Pennsylvania, where I designed yy1flox/flox, γ1 CRE and yy1flox/flox IgkAID to study the role of YY1 in development of germinal centers and in class switching process of antibody formation. I moved to Colorado where I broadened my research experience in immunology in Dr. Janoff’s lab. My project involved characterization of the mechanisms of T cell help for B cell differentiation in response to polysaccharide vaccines during HIV infection. This project provided the opportunity and the challenge to characterize phenotypic and functional outcomes of T and B cells in response to polysaccharides (with and without protein conjugates) in humans. I developed T and B cell interaction assays using cutting edge technology of Amnis image stream to establish the importance of protein adjuvants in development of vaccine containing polysaccharides that are T cell independent antigens. Currently, I am working with Dr. Roark and Dr. Freed at ClinImmune Cell and Gene Therapy to develop stem-cell based novel therapies for patients with rheumatoid arthritis and potentially other autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and ankylosing spondylitis. My project involves confirming safety and efficiency in transgenic mice of a single amino acid mutation in DRB1*04:01 using skin transplants and flow cytometry to measure T cell activation and proliferation.