Healthy vs Abnormal Human Immune Responses in Autoimmunity, Infection, and Immunodeficiency

The Utz lab is part of the Department of Medicine, Division of Immunology at Stanford University School of Medicine. Our lab is located in the CCSR building on the Medical School campus.

We focus on the normal immune system and how it differs from the immune system of patients with immunodeficiency disorders, infections, and autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases being studied include systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic sclerosis (scleroderma), myositis, primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), Sjögren's disease, insulin dependent diabetes (type I diabetes or IDDM), multiple sclerosis (MS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Castleman’s disease, and mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD).

The Utz lab is comprised of approximately 6-8 scientists, including Senior Research Scientists, Postdoctoral Fellows, Research Assistants, Undergraduate Students and Graduate Students. In addition to trying to better understand the pathogenic mechanisms involved in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, we are interested in developing bench-to-bedside technologies, including diagnostics and therapeutics, for human immune diseases. Our lab is also active in vaccine biology, both for inducing protective immunity to pathogens and for turning off immune responses in autoimmune diseases.

The major goals of our studies are:

(1) To use bioinformatics methods to interrogate public datasets, then to validate these “dry lab” discoveries using traditional “wet lab” methods such as FACS, CyTOF, Q-PCR, RNA-Seq, western blotting and ELISA. Working closely with Purvesh Khatri’s lab, our lab has undergone a major “reinvention” over the last few years to become the “wet lab” arm of the Khatri lab’s informatics efforts, featuring integrated studies by comentored PhD students, research assistants, fellows, and senior scientists.

(2) To understand the mechanisms by which highly-conserved, diverse molecules and complexes such as histones and splicing particles are targeted by T and B lymphocytes, and to determine how an immune response directed against ubiquitous antigens leads to organ-specific autoimmune disease.

(3) To invent and validate novel technologies for high-throughput, multiplex proteomics. We are currently focusing on proteomic analysis of proteins and signaling molecules secreted by immune cells, including cytokines, chemokines and autoantibodies, as well as signaling pathways in blood cells and target tissues. Examples of technologies we have pioneered include protein and peptide microarrays, reverse phase protein lysate microarrays, high throughput immunophenotyping using transcription, and most recently Epigenetic CyTOF (EpiTOF).

(4) To take advantage of the information provided by autoantibody profiling methods to develop antigen-specific tolerizing therapies for common autoimmune diseases. Our long-term goal is to develop patient-specific, individualized therapeutics. Our work has led to human clinical trials of tolerizing vaccines in MS, and ongoing human trials in T1D.

(5) To determine the molecular mechanisms underlying the observation that women are much more susceptible to autoimmune diseases, while men are more susceptible to infections. Our studies also include characterizing differences in vaccine responses related to age, sex, genetics, and epigenetics.

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Utz Lab Members