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Kissler Lab

The focus of our laboratory is the immune system. Specifically, we study the genetic factors and cellular events that associate with autoimmune disease, and particularly with type 1 diabetes.

To unravel which genetic variations modulate the risk of autoimmunity, and to understand how gene variants can contribute to disease, we target candidate genes by RNA interference in an experimental model of type 1 diabetes.

Our goal is to understand how autoimmune disease develops, and to translate this knowledge into a therapeutic strategy for a class of diseases that are as yet incurable. More fundamentally, insights gained from these studies will also help us better understand the functioning of our immune system.

Our Research

Autoimmunity is characterized by the destruction of a target organ or tissue by cells of the immune system. There is no cure for any of the many different autoimmune disorders yet, and the treatments available invariably do not suffice to prevent a worsening of the condition with time.

While the general concept of autoimmunity is well understood, our knowledge of the exact mechanisms and events that lead to disease is incomplete. Since genetic variations play a crucial role modulating the risk of autoimmunity, it is helpful - if not essential - to uncover which genes and gene variants associate with disease, and how these variations contribute to pathogenesis.

Our research strategy consists in exploiting genetic information gained from association studies to understand which regulatory pathways are pivotal in disease. To this end, we functionally probe individual disease-associated genes in an experimental model for type 1 diabetes. Our method of choice is RNA interference, combined with lentiviral transgenesis, with which we modulate the expression of individual gene variants within the well-characterized nonobese diabetic (NOD) mouse model.

By trying to understand the mechanisms involved in autoimmune destruction, and uncovering which genetic variations modulate the likelihood of this destruction taking place, we are aiming to gain sufficient knowledge of autoimmunity to develop more succesful therapies.

Funding

Our research is supported by a Career Development Award from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).

Page last updated: October 31, 2014