Maria Grazia Roncarolo lab

Maria Grazia Roncarolo's lab leads efforts to translate scientific discoveries in genetic diseases and regenerative medicine into novel patient therapies, including treatments based on stem cells and gene therapy.Dr. Roncarolo, a pediatric immunologist by training, spent her early career in Lyon, France, where she focused on severe inherited metabolic and immune diseases, including severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), better known as “bubble boy disease.” Dr. Roncarolo was a key member of the team that carried out the first stem cell transplants given before birth to treat these genetic diseases.

While studying inherited immune diseases, Dr. Roncarolo discovered a new class of T cells. These cells, called T regulatory type 1 cells, help maintain immune-system homeostasis by, among other things, preventing autoimmune diseases and helping the immune-system tolerate transplanted cells and organs. Recently, she completed the first clinical trial using T regulatory type 1 cells to prevent severe graft-versus-host disease in leukemia patients undergoing allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
Dr. Roncarolo worked for several years at DNAX Research Institute for Molecular and Cellular Biology in Palo Alto, where she contributed to the discovery of novel cytokines and she studied the role of cytokines in induction of tolerance and in promotion of stem cell growth and differentiation.
Dr. Roncarolo developed new gene-therapy approaches, which she pursued as director of the Telethon Institute for Cell and Gene Therapy at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan. She was the principal investigator leading the successful gene therapy trial for SCID patients lacking adenosine deaminase (ADA), a severe life-threatening disorder. The trial is now considered the gold standard for gene therapy in inherited immune diseases. Under her direction, the Institute has been seminal in showing the efficacy of gene therapy for other untreatable inherited metabolic diseases and primary immunodeficiencies. 
Dr. Roncarolo’s goal at Stanford is to build the teams and infrastructures to fast track stem cell and gene therapy to the clinic and to bring basic-science discoveries to patients. In addition, her laboratory continues to work on T regulatory cell-based treatments to induce tolerance after transplantation of allogeneic tissue stem cells. She recently published in Nature Medicine new biomarkers for T regulatory type 1 cells, which will be used to purify the cells and to track them in patients. She is also investigating genetic chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases due to impairment in T regulatory cell functions.

Professor of Pediatrics (Stem Cell Transplantation) and of Medicine (Blood and Marrow Transplantation)
(650) 498-0297

Publications

  • Immunological Outcome in Haploidentical-HSC Transplanted Patients Treated with IL-10-Anergized Donor T Cells. Frontiers in immunology Bacchetta, R., Lucarelli, B., Sartirana, C., Gregori, S., Lupo Stanghellini, M. T., Miqueu, P., Tomiuk, S., Hernandez-Fuentes, M., Gianolini, M. E., Greco, R., Bernardi, M., Zappone, E., Rossini, S., Janssen, U., Ambrosi, A., Salomoni, M., Peccatori, J., Ciceri, F., Roncarolo, M. 2014; 5: 16-?

    Abstract

    T-cell therapy after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) has been used alone or in combination with immunosuppression to cure hematologic malignancies and to prevent disease recurrence. Here, we describe the outcome of patients with high-risk/advanced stage hematologic malignancies, who received T-cell depleted (TCD) haploidentical-HSCT (haplo-HSCT) combined with donor T lymphocytes pretreated with IL-10 (ALT-TEN trial). IL-10-anergized donor T cells (IL-10-DLI) contained T regulatory type 1 (Tr1) cells specific for the host alloantigens, limiting donor-vs.-host-reactivity, and memory T cells able to respond to pathogens. IL-10-DLI were infused in 12 patients with the goal of improving immune reconstitution after haplo-HSCT without increasing the risk of graft-versus-host-disease (GvHD). IL-10-DLI led to fast immune reconstitution in five patients. In four out of the five patients, total T-cell counts, TCR-Vβ repertoire and T-cell functions progressively normalized after IL-10-DLI. These four patients are alive, in complete disease remission and immunosuppression-free at 7.2 years (median follow-up) after haplo-HSCT. Transient GvHD was observed in the immune reconstituted (IR) patients, despite persistent host-specific hypo-responsiveness of donor T cells in vitro and enrichment of cells with Tr1-specific biomarkers in vivo. Gene-expression profiles of IR patients showed a common signature of tolerance. This study provides the first indication of the feasibility of Tr1 cell-based therapy and paves way for the use of these Tr1 cells as adjuvant treatment for malignancies and immune-mediated disorders.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fimmu.2014.00016

    View details for PubMedID 24550909

  • CD4(+) T Cells from IPEX Patients Convert into Functional and Stable Regulatory T Cells by FOXP3 Gene Transfer SCIENCE TRANSLATIONAL MEDICINE Passerini, L., Mel, E. R., Sartirana, C., Fousteri, G., Bondanza, A., Naldini, L., Roncarolo, M. G., Bacchetta, R. 2013; 5 (215)

    Abstract

    In humans, mutations in the gene encoding for forkhead box P3 (FOXP3), a critically important transcription factor for CD4⁺CD25⁺ regulatory T (T(reg)) cell function, lead to a life-threatening systemic poly-autoimmune disease, known as immune dysregulation, polyendocrinopathy, enteropathy, X-linked (IPEX) syndrome. Severe autoimmunity results from the inborn dysfunction and instability of FOXP3-mutated T(reg) cells. Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is the only current curative option for affected patients. We show here that when CD4⁺ T cells are converted into T(reg) cells after lentivirus-mediated FOXP3 gene transfer, the resulting CD4(FOXP3) T cell population displays stable phenotype and suppressive function, especially when naïve T cells are converted. We further demonstrate that CD4(FOXP3) T cells are stable in inflammatory conditions not only in vitro but also in vivo in a model of xenogeneic graft-versus-host disease. We therefore applied this FOXP3 gene transfer strategy for the development of a T(reg) cell-based therapeutic approach to restore tolerance in IPEX syndrome. IPEX-derived CD4(FOXP3) T cells mirrored T(reg) cells from healthy donors in terms of cellular markers, anergic phenotype, cytokine production, and suppressive function. These findings pave the way for the treatment of IPEX patients by adoptive cell therapy with genetically engineered T(reg) cells and are seminal for future potential application in patients with autoimmune disorders of different origin.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/scitranslmed.3007320

    View details for Web of Science ID 000328685500005

    View details for PubMedID 24337481

  • Lentiviral hematopoietic stem cell gene therapy benefits metachromatic leukodystrophy. Science Biffi, A., Montini, E., Lorioli, L., Cesani, M., Fumagalli, F., Plati, T., Baldoli, C., Martino, S., Calabria, A., Canale, S., Benedicenti, F., Vallanti, G., Biasco, L., Leo, S., Kabbara, N., Zanetti, G., Rizzo, W. B., Mehta, N. A., Cicalese, M. P., Casiraghi, M., Boelens, J. J., Del Carro, U., Dow, D. J., Schmidt, M., Assanelli, A., Neduva, V., Di Serio, C., Stupka, E., Gardner, J., von Kalle, C., Bordignon, C., Ciceri, F., Rovelli, A., Roncarolo, M. G., Aiuti, A., Sessa, M., Naldini, L. 2013; 341 (6148): 1233158-?

    Abstract

    Metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD) is an inherited lysosomal storage disease caused by arylsulfatase A (ARSA) deficiency. Patients with MLD exhibit progressive motor and cognitive impairment and die within a few years of symptom onset. We used a lentiviral vector to transfer a functional ARSA gene into hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) from three presymptomatic patients who showed genetic, biochemical, and neurophysiological evidence of late infantile MLD. After reinfusion of the gene-corrected HSCs, the patients showed extensive and stable ARSA gene replacement, which led to high enzyme expression throughout hematopoietic lineages and in cerebrospinal fluid. Analyses of vector integrations revealed no evidence of aberrant clonal behavior. The disease did not manifest or progress in the three patients 7 to 21 months beyond the predicted age of symptom onset. These findings indicate that extensive genetic engineering of human hematopoiesis can be achieved with lentiviral vectors and that this approach may offer therapeutic benefit for MLD patients.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1233158

    View details for PubMedID 23845948

  • Lentiviral hematopoietic stem cell gene therapy in patients with Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome. Science Aiuti, A., Biasco, L., Scaramuzza, S., Ferrua, F., Cicalese, M. P., Baricordi, C., Dionisio, F., Calabria, A., Giannelli, S., Castiello, M. C., Bosticardo, M., Evangelio, C., Assanelli, A., Casiraghi, M., Di Nunzio, S., Callegaro, L., Benati, C., Rizzardi, P., Pellin, D., Di Serio, C., Schmidt, M., von Kalle, C., Gardner, J., Mehta, N., Neduva, V., Dow, D. J., Galy, A., Miniero, R., Finocchi, A., Metin, A., Banerjee, P. P., Orange, J. S., Galimberti, S., Valsecchi, M. G., Biffi, A., Montini, E., Villa, A., Ciceri, F., Roncarolo, M. G., Naldini, L. 2013; 341 (6148): 1233151-?

    Abstract

    Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome (WAS) is an inherited immunodeficiency caused by mutations in the gene encoding WASP, a protein regulating the cytoskeleton. Hematopoietic stem/progenitor cell (HSPC) transplants can be curative, but, when matched donors are unavailable, infusion of autologous HSPCs modified ex vivo by gene therapy is an alternative approach. We used a lentiviral vector encoding functional WASP to genetically correct HSPCs from three WAS patients and reinfused the cells after a reduced-intensity conditioning regimen. All three patients showed stable engraftment of WASP-expressing cells and improvements in platelet counts, immune functions, and clinical scores. Vector integration analyses revealed highly polyclonal and multilineage haematopoiesis resulting from the gene-corrected HSPCs. Lentiviral gene therapy did not induce selection of integrations near oncogenes, and no aberrant clonal expansion was observed after 20 to 32 months. Although extended clinical observation is required to establish long-term safety, lentiviral gene therapy represents a promising treatment for WAS.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1233151

    View details for PubMedID 23845947

  • Coexpression of CD49b and LAG-3 identifies human and mouse T regulatory type 1 cells NATURE MEDICINE Gagliani, N., Magnani, C. F., Huber, S., Gianolini, M. E., Pala, M., Licona-Limon, P., Guo, B., Herbert, D. R., Bulfone, A., Trentini, F., Di Serio, C., Bacchetta, R., Andreani, M., Brockmann, L., Gregori, S., Flavell, R. A., Roncarolo, M. 2013; 19 (6): 739-?

    Abstract

    CD4(+) type 1 T regulatory (Tr1) cells are induced in the periphery and have a pivotal role in promoting and maintaining tolerance. The absence of surface markers that uniquely identify Tr1 cells has limited their study and clinical applications. By gene expression profiling of human Tr1 cell clones, we identified the surface markers CD49b and lymphocyte activation gene 3 (LAG-3) as being stably and selectively coexpressed on mouse and human Tr1 cells. We showed the specificity of these markers in mouse models of intestinal inflammation and helminth infection and in the peripheral blood of healthy volunteers. The coexpression of CD49b and LAG-3 enables the isolation of highly suppressive human Tr1 cells from in vitro anergized cultures and allows the tracking of Tr1 cells in the peripheral blood of subjects who developed tolerance after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. The use of these markers makes it feasible to track Tr1 cells in vivo and purify Tr1 cells for cell therapy to induce or restore tolerance in subjects with immune-mediated diseases.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nm.3179

    View details for Web of Science ID 000319981600023

    View details for PubMedID 23624599