Heth R. Turnquist, PhD
Assistant Professor of Surgery and Immunology
BS, South Dakota State University, Brookings, South Dakota; PhD, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska
Cytokine and dendritic cell immunobiology in transplantation
The overall focus of my research program is the elucidation of endogenous immunoregulatory and allograft protective mechanisms that can be applied clinically for the benefit of transplant recipients.
Currently, we are highly focused on developing a harnessable understanding of how cytokines, which are small cell-signaling molecules with local and systemic immunoregulatory functions, shape transplant outcomes. Toward this goal, we employ cutting-edge research tools, including advanced imaging of clinical biopsies, computational biology, and precise cellular and molecular examinations in transgenic mouse-based transplant models. We fully expect these methods and models will allow us to establish a precise understanding of the pro-inflammatory versus regulatory capacity of cytokines in solid organ and bone marrow transplantation.
A primary area of my research is the identification of how IL-33, acting as a cytokine secreted by immune cells or a “danger” signal when released from damaged cells, influences cardiac allograft rejection. IL-33 is particularly novel in that it has the potential to target both immune cells and cells of allograft, which share expression of the IL-33 receptor.
Likewise, dendritic cells (DC) are now well accepted to be potent endogenous regulators of immune responses. DC rely heavily on cytokines to both stimulate or suppress immune responses. We are also actively developing an improved understanding of the targetable signaling pathways that control DC cytokine production and their immunoregulatory or stimulatory functions in transplantation.