My interest in immunometabolism research began as I finished my graduate studies on the immunology of inflammatory bowel diseases. I observed that macrophages in the large intestine expressed two enzymes that metabolized the amino acid L-arginine in distinct directions. This finding seemed paradoxical, leading to polarized macrophage functions including 1) host defense and inflammation, and 2) wound repair and inflammation resolution.
I was intrigued that the availability of this small molecule had the potential to regulate immune function. I decided to further my understanding of L-arginine in my postdoctoral fellowship, where I helped define how the metabolism of this amino acid was regulated and its impact on tumor immunology and host defense responses, especially in the context of mycobacterial infections.
As I continue this research in my laboratory, I plan to:
- Explore how L-arginine uptake, synthesis, and utilization, orchestrate immune function when challenged with Mycobacterium tuberculosis and other intracellular bacteria
- Analyze how intracellular and intercellular amino acid metabolism regulates immunology and host defense responses involving macrophages, dendritic cells, and T cells
- Examine other central metabolic pathways, including the contribution of lactate metabolism – a key process during aerobic glycolysis – on macrophage function and host defense responses
Our long-term research objective is to define the interplay between metabolism and immune responses, specifically those relevant to anti-pathogen immunity. We envision a better understanding of immunometabolism may uncover novel therapeutic strategies to assist in fighting disease.
My career at Cincinnati Children’s began in 2012, and I have well over a decade of research experience. I was honored to work with wonderful mentors, including Dr. Donald A. Cohen, PhD, during my graduate training at the University of Kentucky, and Dr. Peter J. Murray, PhD, as a postdoctoral fellow at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
I previously held a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) during my postdoctoral training, and I have been extramurally funded to pursue our independent research objectives since 2015. As a trainee, I served as vice-chair of mentoring activities for the Postdoctoral Association Council and was a member of the Education Programs Committee. In addition to my current research endeavors, I teach within various immunology and microbiology courses across campus. I am a training faculty member within the Immunology Graduate Program, and I currently serve on internal grant study sections and as an ad hoc reviewer for numerous journals. Outside of the hospital, I serve as the Diversity Coordinator and Executive Council Member for the annual Autumn Immunology Conference.
Associate Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics