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​Pilot Grant Awardees 2020:





Dr. Alessandra Franco
Associate Professor
 Department of Pediatrics
UC San Diego
Awarded: Pilot Project Grant

Project: Natural regulatory T cells (Treg) that
recognize the heavy constant region of IgG (Fc) are important in down-regulating inflammation. We
defined the fine specificity of these Tregs and mapped the immunodominant peptides in healthy
donors and patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). In RA, the Treg response to the Fc has been
found compromised because of the inefficient entry in antigen presenting cells (APC). Myeloid
dendritic cells, specifically cDC2, are the most efficient APC in presenting the Fc to Treg. The grant
explores the role of Fcg receptors II and III, which are often mutated in RA, jeopardizing the Fc entry
for antigen processing and presentation to Treg.







Dr. Mitsue Miyazaki
Adjunct Professor
 Department of Radiology
UC San Diego
Awarded: Pilot Project Grant
Project: Osteoarthritis (OA) is a prevalent degenerative joint disease affecting many joints of the body, including the knee. While current MR imaging evaluation of the knee has focused on morphologic assessment, and newer quantitative techniques have focused on biochemical interrogation, to a varying degree of success. There currently does not exist an MR technique that simultaneously addresses both at macromolecular evaluation, such as proteoglycans in cartilage extracellular matrix, as well as short T2 acquisition needed to accurately image deep layer cartilage, meniscus, and tendons/ligaments. This is a study to demonstrate feasibility ofmacromolecule exchange protons using Z-spectrum analysis of protons (ZAP) MRI and to gather preliminary data providing evidence of sensitivity of ZAP MRI to OA, and how ZAP MR measures correlate with conventional quantitative MRI, as well as reference measures of biomechanical, biochemical and cellular changes from histologic and transcriptional analyses.


Dr. Elsa Sanchez-Lopez
Assistant Project Scientist
 Department of Pharmacology
UC San Diego
Awarded: Matching Funds to further the Pilot Project
Project: Chronic macrophage activation and prolonged inflammatory response underlies most inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Metabolic reprograming and lipidomic remodeling are hallmarks of immune cell activation, and in particular, choline uptake and utilization shape macrophage-dependent inflammation. We are focused in how choline availability and utilization influence macrophage phenotype and function in human inflammatory diseases by using human biopsies, mouse models and cell cultures.


​Dr. Nisarg Shah
 Assistant Professor
Department of Nanoengineering
UC San Diego
Awarded: Matching Funds to further the Pilot Project
Project: Dr. Shah's research group develops cell-instructive biomaterials, organized to function as chemical and molecular regulators to drive immune cell specificities towards restoring the immune function of negative feedback. In rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the loss of immune self-regulation is an important contributor to the pathogenesis of the disease. The MARC pilot project grant provided crucial support and collaborations for testing biomaterials-mediated restoration of disease-relevant regulatory immune cell subsets, towards developing a durable therapy for RA.


Dr. Yu Yamaguchi
Professor
Sanford-Burnham Prebys
Medical Research Institute
Awarded: Pilot Project Grant
Project: Hyaluronan is a major component of cartilage. Interestingly, the half-life of hyaluronan is extremely short and its homeostasis is maintained by rapid turnover, suggesting that dysregulation of not only the anabolic but also the catabolic arm of hyaluronan metabolism can be a cause of cartilage degeneration and joint disorders. In this pilot project, we will investigate the role of TMEM2, the first membrane-anchored hyaluronidase identified in mammalian cells, in cartilage homeostasis and degeneration using a TMEM2 mutant mouse model.


Pilot Grant Awardees 2019:



Dr. Elsa Sanchez-Lopez
Assistant Project Scientist
Department of Pharmacology
UC San Diego
Awarded: Pilot Project Grant
Project: Chronic macrophage activation and prolonged inflammatory response underlies most inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Metabolic reprograming and lipidomic remodeling are hallmarks of immune cell activation, and in particular, choline uptake and utilization shape macrophage-dependent inflammation. We are focused in how choline availability and utilization influence macrophage phenotype and function in human inflammatory diseases by using human biopsies, mouse models and cell cultures.


Dr. Nisarg Shah
 Assistant Professor
Department of Nanoengineering
UC San Diego
Awarded: Pilot Project Grant
Project: Dr. Shah's research group develops cell-instructive biomaterials, organized to function as chemical and molecular regulators to drive immune cell specificities towards restoring the immune function of negative feedback. In rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the loss of immune self-regulation is an important contributor to the pathogenesis of the disease. The MARC pilot project grant provided crucial support and collaborations for testing biomaterials-mediated restoration of disease-relevant regulatory immune cell subsets, towards developing a durable therapy for RA.
Dr. Meng Zhao
Assistant Member in Arthritis and Clinical Immunology program at Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation
Awarded: Pilot Project Grant
Project: Innate like T cells, including iNKT cells, MAIT cells and gamma delta T cells are a group of fast responding T lymphocytes. Our previous study showed iNKT cells prevent the development of severe autoimmune arthritis. The MARC pilot enabled us to explore the role of MAIT cells, another kind of innate like T in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis.