Meet the Rothenberg Lab

Marc RothenbergMarc Rothenberg, MD, PhD
Director, Division of Allergy and Immunology

Dr. Rothenberg is director of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and tenured professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s within the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. He is the Founder and Director of the Cincinnati Center for Eosinophilic Disorders (CCED) and the Principal Investigator of the Consortium of Gastrointestinal Eosinophilic Disease Researchers (CEGIR), part of the Rare Disease Clinical Research Network of the National Institutes of Health. 

Rothenberg graduated summa cum laude with highest honors in chemistry and biochemistry from Brandeis University. He then completed the MD/PhD program at Harvard Medical School under Dr. Frank Austen, conducting studies on eosinophil hematopoiesis, and he developed the first culture system for human eosinophils. After completing residency at Children’s Hospital, Boston, Rothenberg completed a fellowship in allergy/immunology and hematology at Children’s Hospital. Rothenberg did post-doctorate training with Dr. Philip Leder, Harvard Medical School, where he cloned the eotaxin chemokine. After being faculty at Harvard Medical School for one year, he came to the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children's, where he has helped build a top program in research and sees patients suffering from allergic and immunologic diseases from around the world as part of the CCED. His division is a leader in allergy and immunology.

Rothenberg’s research is focused on molecular analysis of allergic inflammation, primarily on the molecular pathogenesis of eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorders. His laboratory takes a multi-disciplinary approach including the development of preclinical murine models, genetics, genomics, molecular immunology, and biochemistry. Rothenberg’s research has been published in over 300 peer-reviewed articles and has contributed to the development of a new class of drugs based on targeting eosinophils, the first of which (anti-IL-5) has been approved by the FDA for eosinophilic asthma.  His research has uncovered the cellular, molecular and genetic bases for eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), leading to a commercially available molecular diagnostic test and new treatment strategies.

Dr. Rothenberg’s awards include the 2007 E Mead Johnson Award from the Society of Pediatric Research, 2010 National Institutes of Health MERIT Award, and being elected an American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow. He is a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, American Academy of Pediatrics, and Society for Pediatric Radiology. He has served on review panels for journals/grant agencies including National Institutes of Health (NIH), Burroughs Trust, and Medical Research Council of the United Kingdom. He served for four years on the Advisory Council of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. He has been Associate Editor of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology since 2004. He is the Director and Founder of the Consortium of Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disease Researchers (CEGIR)., supported by the Rare Disease Clinical Research Network of the NIH. His research has been supported by sources including the NIH, Human Frontier Science Program Organization, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Dana Foundation, US-Israel Binational Fund, Department of Defense, and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).

Rothenberg has trained a myriad of investigators, serving as the Program Director and/or Principal Investigator of several training grants, including an NIAID T32, the Institutional Children’s Health Pediatric Scientist Training Grant (K12) and the KL2 Training Component of Cincinnati Children’s CTSA.

Postdoctoral Fellows / Research Associates

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Nurit Azouz, PhDNurit Azouz, PhD
Research Fellow

Nurit came to the Rothenberg Lab after receiving her PhD from Tel Aviv University, Israel.  Esophageal epithelial cells are uniquely positioned as the very first line of defense to recognize immune insults such as food antigens, proteolytic allergens and microorganisms. Nurit's work is aimed at identifying the role of proteases and their inhibitors in the propagation of eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE). EoE is characterized by imbalance between proteases and their inhibitors in the epithelium. Loss of protease inhibitors unleashes an uncontrolled protease activity in the esophagus that results in impairment of the epithelial barrier. As a result antigens can penetrate into the esophageal tissues and activate immune response.

Michael Brusilovsky, M.Med.Sc., PhD
Research Fellow

Michael came to the Rothenberg Lab from Ben-Gurion University, Israel to study eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE). Evidence suggests that certain bacteria are directly affecting normal tissue function. However, the role that bacteria have in EoE has yet to be characterized. Certain bacteria species may be directly involved in the development of EoE. The Rothenberg Lab is addressing questions regarding the role of bacteria in allergic inflammation of EoE. Michael’s work is aimed at characterizing the relationship of bacteria and the esophageal tissue in the development of EoE.

Julie Caldwell, PhDJulie Caldwell, PhD
Research Associate

Julie came to the Rothenberg Lab after completing her BS at Xavier University and PhD in the lab of Yolanda Sanchez at the University of Cincinnati. In eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) and eosinophilic gastritis (EG), changes in the esophagus and stomach occur that include the infiltration of cells that are not normally present, such as eosinophils, but also alterations in the structural cells that normally makes up these tissues. The Rothenberg Lab studies the differences in both the structural tissue, as well as the infiltrating cells, between people who have eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorders (EGIDs) and those who do not to gain a better understanding of what causes the diseases. One of the differences in the structural tissue observed in people who have EoE or EG is an increase in the level of the molecule cadherin 26 (CDH26), which is a cell adhesion molecule. Julie is testing the hypothesis that cadherin 26, which is expressed by the structural cells in the esophagus and stomach, can affect the infiltrating cells, such as eosinophils or T cells, by influencing how they can localize to the tissue or how they function once they are present in the esophagus and stomach. Julie hopes that by discovering how factors such as CDH26 affect processes related to EGID pathogenesis, we can develop treatments related to these molecules.

Eyad KhorkiEyad Khorki
Visiting Research Scientist

Eyad came to the Rothenberg Lab after graduating from medical school in Jordan. He plans to apply for residency in pediatrics and continue on to work as a doctor in allergy and immunology. His current research involves immunofluorescent techniques.

Photo of Mark Rochman, PhD.Mark Rochman, PhD
Research Associate

Mark came to the Rothenberg Lab from the National Institutes of Health. Have you ever thought why the cells of our body are so different even though they all have the same DNA? Our DNA is not always our destiny. There is a special mechanism of regulating cell fate, which is called epigenetics (“epi” means “above”). Our cells respond to the signals from their environment by switching on and turning off expression of genes that makes them blood cells, muscle cells or esophageal epithelial cells. In addition to tissue differentiation, epigenetics regulates gene expression in diseases, such as eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), a condition in which consumed food becomes a major environmental inducer of allergic response. Mark is focused on understanding what role(s) epigenetics is having in the development of EoE with the hope to develop novel therapeutic approaches to treat EoE.

Predoctoral Students

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Cora Miracle
Student, University of Cincinnati

Cora is an undergraduate student majoring in Health Sciences at the University of Cincinnati. She is currently working on the localization and function of interleukin 33 (IL-33) in the nucleus, focused on its interaction with chromatin, using FRAP (fluorescence recovery after photobleaching) protocols. Cora plans to finish her undergraduate degree and pursue a PhD and MD in the near future.

Miriam PeinhauptMiriam Peinhaupt
PhD Student, Medical University of Graz

Miriam is a PhD student from Graz, Austria who is collaborating with the Rothenberg Lab. The survival of eosinophils is prolonged in allergic diseases compared to a healthy state. It is thought that these surviving eosinophils worsen the disease by releasing peptides that may damage lung or esophageal tissue. Miriam is investigating how prostaglandin D2, a lipid mediator released during allergic reactions, controls this pathologic, enhanced survival function of eosinophils.


Jeffrey RymerJeffrey Rymer
PhD Student, University of Cincinnati

Jeffrey graduated from the University of Tennessee, where he was a EURēCA award winner in 2013. He is obtaining his PhD in the Department of Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry and Microbiology. His research is focused on a protein called calpain 14, which has been shown to be associated with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), and its expression is increased in biopsies from patients with EoE. Yet, calpain 14's function and contribution to the disease state of EoE is unknown. To begin investigating calpain 14 function and role, Jeffrey is determining where calpain 14 is located inside cells of the esophagus.


Jared TraversJared Travers
MD/PhD Student, University of Cincinnati

Jared received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biochemistry from Purdue University. He is pursuing his MD/PhD at the University of Cincinnati and Immunobiology Graduate Program at Cincinnati Children’s. In the Rothenberg Lab, he researches interleukin 33 (IL-33), which is a protein that starts immune responses by activating immune cells, including eosinophils. It is known to have critical roles in allergic asthma and atopic dermatitis. Jared has found that it is only present in the esophagus during active eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) in a special epithelial cell population. He is working to determine IL-33's role in the disease and to describe the special epithelial cell population in which it is found.

Research Assistants

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John BesseJohn Besse
Research Assistant IV

John received his bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Cincinnati in 2008. Many experiments in the Rothenberg Lab involve mouse models, which researchers use to test hypotheses for different experiments in mice instead of humans. John takes care of specific mouse colonies and works on various research projects with senior scientists in the lab. He is committed to maintaining a safe lab environment and has received the Safety Star Award multiple times. John's special interests include merging computers and biological phenomena.


Matt EilermanMatt Eilerman
Research Assistant II

Matt graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in biology. In the Rothenberg Lab, Matt maintains mouse models of eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), helps with counting histology samples and with data analysis for experiments, and also performs the genotyping for the lab. Currently, he is helping another member of the lab, Nurit, with her work on periostin and trying to understand its role in allergic reaction. Occasionally Matt also assists with ordering supplies for the lab and collection of blood samples for experiments.


Photo of Kiran KC.Kiran KC
Research Assistant III

Kiran received a double major bachelor's degree in microbiology and biology-genomics from the University of Texas at Arlington. He is working on understanding why some patients with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) respond to proton pump inhibitor (PPI) therapy and others do not. The Rothenberg Lab has identified a gene (KCNJ2) that is found to be expressed more in patients with EoE as a collective group than in the subset of patients with EoE that respond to PPI therapy. Kiran's current work is to make cells of the esophagus overproduce this protein and check whether the cells making this protein are susceptible to being more reactive and causing the disease.


Photo of Melissa Mingler, MS, MBA. Melissa Mingler, MS, MBA
Laboratory Manager, Senior Research Assistant

Mel received her BS in biochemistry and microbiology from Ohio University, her MS in biochemistry and molecular biology from Michigan State University and her MBA from the University of Cincinnati. She takes care of all of the ordering for supplies, maintains the mouse model colonies of eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), coordinates between researchers and clinical research coordinators and assists with ongoing experiments.


Leanne RayLeanne Ray
Research Assistant II

Leanne came graduated from University of Cincinnati with a bachelor's degree in biology. All of the samples given by consented patients come to Leanne in the Rothenberg Lab, where she de-identifies and processes them into different types of samples such as DNA, RNA, plasma and serum. Leanne is responsible for culturing primary cells from biopsies and manages the Cincinnati Center for Eosinophilic Disorders (CCED) sample biobank, which has over 25,000 patient samples and is a key resource to the Rothenberg Lab and CCED.

Major Collaborating Research Faculty/Associates & Support Staff

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Photo of J. Pablo Abonia, MD.J. Pablo Abonia, MD
Associate Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics

Pablo is an established collaborator of the Rothenberg Lab and member of the Cincinnati Center for Eosinophilic Disorders (CCED) team, directed by Marc E. Rothenberg, MD, PhD. Pablo provides the bulk of the clinical allergy care for patients with eosinophilic disorders. His research focuses on mining the databanks (patient characteristics, tissue samples, RNA, DNA) to elucidate the mechanisms, diagnosis and treatment of eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE). He is interested in the role of mast cells in EoE and connective tissue disorders. He received his BS, MS and MD degrees from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Melody Hess, MSMelody Hess, MS
Clinical Research Coordinator IV

Prior to joining the Cincinnati Center for Eosinophilic Disorders (CCED), Melody worked in a variety of research settings, including academic, industry, and clinical centers. She has research experience in microbiology, neurophysiology, and diabetes/endocrinology. She holds a BS in biology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a MS in nutrition from the University of Cincinnati. For the joint Rothenberg Lab – CCED research efforts, Melody is primarily responsible for the regulatory management of clinical research studies and the coordination/management of clinical trials.

Photo of Leah Nesbitt Kottyan, PhD.Leah C. Kottyan, PhD
Assistant Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics

Leah became a close collaborator of the Rothenberg Lab after defending her PhD, which was conducted in the Zimmermann Lab in the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Cincinnati Children's. She is helping to unravel the genetic profile of patients with eosinophilic disorders and has a joint faculty appointment with the Divisions of Rheumatology and of Allergy and Immunology. Leah develops a short list of variants that are most statistically likely to be causal before starting biological or functional analysis and then predicts and confirms biological phenotypes that are affected by the risk variants.

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Jonathan KuhlJonathan Kuhl
Clinical Research Coordinator III

Prior to joining the Cincinnati Center for Eosinophilic Disorders (CCED), Jonathan received his BS in biology with a minor in chemistry from Xavier University. He is responsible for collecting samples and enrolling patients for the Cincinnati Center for Eosinophilic Disorders (CCED), which is directed by Marc E. Rothenberg, MD, PhD.

Vincent Mukkada, MDVincent Mukkada, MD
Assistant Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics

Vince is an established collaborator of the Rothenberg Lab and member of the Cincinnati Center for Eosinophilic Disorders (CCED) team, directed by Marc E. Rothenberg, MD, PhD. Vince received his BA from the University of Pennsylvania and his MD from the University of Cincinnati. He then completed his residency at Brown University and a fellowship in pediatric gastroenterology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. After an additional year as a research scholar with Dr. Glenn Furuta in Denver, Vince directed an eosinophilic disease program in Providence, Rhode Island prior to coming to Cincinnati Children’s. Vince’s clinical interests are focused on eosinophilic disease and pediatric feeding disorders, and he sees many of the CCED patients clinically. His research interests are focused on clinical trials, dietary therapy, and new diagnostic methods in eosinophilic disease.

Carina Venter, PhD, RDCarina Venter, PhD, RD
Research Associate

Carina was previously at the University of Southampton/Portsmouth in the United Kingdom, where she studied the interaction of food allergies and genetics. After joining the Cincinnati Center for Eosinophilic Disorders (CCED) directed by Marc E. Rothenberg, MD, PhD, Carina is studying all aspects of nutrition related to allergic diseases such as eosinophilic disorders: prevention, diagnosis, and management.

Photo of Ting Wen, PhD.Ting Wen, PhD
Research Instructor

Ting became a close collaborator of the Rothenberg Lab after his postdoctoral fellowship in the Rothenberg Lab in the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Cincinnati Children's. He earned a PhD in Cell Biology and Neuroscience from the Rutgers University / UMDNJ. Ting’s research focuses on tissue- and condition-specific transcriptomes and the development of molecular diagnostics and biomarkers. Ting has characterized the unique, tissue-specific transcriptome of purified murine eosinophils under homeostasis and allergic conditions and demonstrated the expression and function of a couple of unexpected molecules, CD22 and CAR4, on gastrointestinal and lung eosinophils, respectively (Wen et al., 2012 and 2014, Journal of Immunology); developed a murine eosinophil transfer model system that has proven to be useful in assessing the function of a gene of interest that is expressed on eosinophils or target tissue (Wen et al., 2013, PNAS); and is a co-inventor of the EoE Diagnostic Panel (EDP), created in part due to his expertise in molecular biopsy and bioinformatics. The Cincinnati Children's-owned patent is now licensed to the diagnostic company and is in use in clinical practice (Wen et al., 2013, Gastroenterology).

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