In The News!


Dr. Dane Parker, Center for Immunity & Inflammation, Department of Pathology, Immunology and Laboratory Medicine was recently promoted to Associate Professor and awarded grants from Rutgers Innovation-TechExpress and Rutgers Research Council.

Check out the latest interview with TheScientist Magazine and Dr. Dane Parker.  This paper was noting how efforts to develop a vaccine to Staphylococcus aureus have not been successful.   They discovered that previous exposure to this pathogen can affect vaccine efficacy and potentially generated a nonprotective immune memory.  This could influence how preclinical studies are conducted in the future to better replicate the immune response in humans.

Dr. Jojo Reyes, former PhD student in Dr. George Yap’s lab in the Center for Immunity & Inflammation, was recently selected to receive a prestigious Irvington Fellowship from the Cancer Research Institute.  The fellowship will support her postdoctoral studies at the Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, for a period of three years.  Dr. Reyes, was also selected as “2024 Outstanding PhD Graduate” by the Rutgers Health New Jersey Medical School Faculty Organization. The award is to recognize academic achievement and contributions to life and missions of New Jersey Medical School.   Dr. Reyes was notified of this award by New Jersey Medical School Faculty Organization President, Dr. Joshua Kaplan.

Dr. Azadeh Nasuhidehnavi, former PhD student in Dr. George Yap’s lab in the Center for Immunity & Inflammation, and current postdoc at Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, was recently selected for a faculty position at SUNY, Binghamton.  Dr. Nasuhidehnavi will be an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Science, SUNY, Binghamtom.

Dr. Bhupendra Singh Rawat (Bessman lab) was awarded a 3-year fellowship from the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, for his research project titled ‘Hepcidin and iron homeostasis in Inflammatory Bowel Disease.’

Dr. George Yap, Professor, was elected to the esteemed American Academy of Microbiology. Dr. Yap joins 64 new fellows, who were elected via a highly selective, peer review process, based on scientific achievements in the advancement of microbiology.


Dr. Tessa Bergsbaken, Assistant Professor, was selected as the recipient of the 2023 New Jesey Health Foundation Excellence in Research Award for her work on tissue-resident lymphocytes.

Dr. Nicholas Bessman, Assistant Professor and Chancellor Scholar, was being selected to be one of only two Rutgers University nominees for the Searle Scholars Program.

Gause photo Patricia A. Fitzgerald-Bocarsly, PhD

Dr. William Gause and Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald-Bocarsly, were named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Full article in Rutgers Today.

In a recent publication (November 2023) in Brain Behavior and Immunity, Dr. George S. Yap and his team in the Department of Medicine and the Center for Immunity and Inflammation identified a new cytokine-mitokine-mitokine cascade that contributes weight loss and sickness behaviors triggered by infection. In this cascade, interferon-gamma (IFN-γ), a key pro-inflammatory cytokine produced during infection triggers the release of growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF-15) from stressed tissues such as the kidney into the bloodstream. In turn, GDF-15 induces weight loss by suppressing food intake and ketosis through fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) production in the liver. Targeting this cascade may represent a therapeutic strategy to combat severe weight loss and wasting disease.

Rutgers Awarded NIH Grant to Study How Previous Infections Affect Immune Response to Lung Disease

Researchers will examine how the body’s adaptations to viruses, fungi and parasites change its ability to combat unrelated respiratory infections.

The five-year grant will support the work of immunologists William C. Gause, Amariliz Rivera and Mark Siracusa, who will examine how mice fight lung infection after exposure to various parasites, fungi and viruses. Full article in Rutgers Today.


In April 2023, Dr. Yuan-Xiang Tao and his team in Department of Anesthesiology and Center for Immunity and Inflammation published an exciting work in Brain that identified a novel non-coding RNA named sensory neuron-specific lncRNA (SS-lncRNA), for its expression exclusively in the neurons of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and trigeminal ganglion. They reported that SS-lncRNA relieved neuropathic pain through hnRNPM-mediated KCNN1 rescue. These findings suggest that SS-lncRNA may offer a new therapeutic strategy specific for neuropathic pain.

In February 2023, Dr. Yuan-Xiang Tao’s lab published a paper in Br J Anaesth showing that intrathecal NIS-lncRNA antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) leads to a long-lasting analgesic effect on neuropathic pain caused by nerve trauma, chemotherapy, or diabetes mellitus. This work followed up his team’s previous exciting findings published in J Clin Invest last year (July 2022), which reported that a new identified nerve injury-specific long-noncoding RNA (NIS-lncRNA) promoted neuropathic pain by increasing the expression of CCL2, a small cytokine. Given that ASO strategy is an FDA-approved in clinical treatments of some neurological disorders, NIS-lncRNA ASOs may have potential application in clinical managements of neuropathic pain. A patent related to this work has been applied. This project is funded by a five-year $3.5-million NIH HEAL Initiative grant (2019-2024).

Dr. Tessa Bergsbaken, Assistant Professor in Center for Immunity and Inflammation and Department of Pathology, Immunology & Laboratory Medicine, and colleagues published a study in the November 2022 issue of Science Immunology that uses a newly developed mouse model to understand the unique functions of tissue-resident memory T cell subsets. Tissue-resident memory T (Trm) cells are lodged within barrier surfaces and are critical for preventing infection with pathogens that invade these tissues. Dr. Helen Fung, the first author on this paper, found that a small subset of CD103Trm cells were the primary responders to secondary infection. CD103Trm cells expanded within the tissue and displayed enhanced TCR-mediated reactivation and cytokine production compared to their CD103+ counterparts. These studies reveal the limited recall potential of CD103+ Trm subsets and the role of CD103 Trm cells as central memory-like T cells within peripheral tissues. Ultimately, these studies suggest that vaccines that lead to the generation of CD103Trm cells within barrier surfaces could have enhanced efficacy. The findings were highlighted in an article in Rutgers Today.

In September 2022, Jianya Peng and Chandler Sy from Dr. Mark Siracusa’s lab published a paper in PNAS showing an important role for monocytes in maintaining central nervous system homeostasis following an intestinal parasite challenge. These studies represent an important contribution to the rapidly emerging field of neuroimmunology and suggest that infections occurring at distal sites can dramatically alter the host brain. These findings further showed that a previous infection may make the host less susceptible to subsequent forms of neuroinflammation. Given that neuroinflammation is associated with disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, this work could inform the development of new therapeutic targets to treat neurogenerative conditions.

In August 2022, Darine El-Naccache published a paper in Cell Reports showing an important role for adenosine in triggering type 2 immune responses through binding the Adenosine A2b receptor expressed on intestinal epithelial cells. These studies were part of her Ph.D. dissertation research in Dr. Gause's laboratory, and the studies were done in collaboration with Dr. George Hasko at Columbia University. These findings further showed that the adenosine was derived from extracellular ATP and essentially functions as an endogenous danger signal likely triggered through tissue damage occurring as helminth parasites cross the intestinal barrier. The findings were highlighted in an article in Rutgers Today.

In August 2022, Dr. Aimee M. Beaulieu, Assistant Professor and Chancellor Scholar, Center for Immunity and Inflammation and Department of Microbiology, Biochemistry, & Molecular Genetics, and colleagues published a study in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrating that the cytokine, IL-33, is a key regulator of pregnancy progression and type 2 immune responses at the maternal-fetal interface in mice. This collaborative study included researchers from Dr. Beaulieu’s team, and from the teams of Dr. Nataki Douglas in the Center for Immunity and Inflammation and Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Health at Rutgers NJMS and Dr. Ripla Arora at Michigan State University.  Dr. Nuriban Valero-Pacheco, the first author of the paper, demonstrated that pregnant mice lacking the Il33 gene exhibit diverse defects in key physiological and cellular processes in the uterine microenvironment that support pregnancy progression in mice, resulting in impaired fetal and placental development.  These defects were associated with diminished Type 2 immune responses by uterine lymphocytes and myeloid cells at the maternal-fetal interface during early pregnancy. Ultimately, this work could inform future efforts to target IL-33 signaling to treat or prevent pregnancy disorders in women.

Asthma and allergies are chronic health conditions that continue to adversely impact the quality of life for many around the world. Thanks to exciting breakthroughs by Mark Siracusa, a researcher at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, there may be early signs of light at the end of the tunnel.

Novel Therapeutic Strategies May Finally Bring Relief to Those Suffering from Asthma and Allergies | Rutgers Research