This past summer, I had the opportunity to work under the leadership of Dr. Michela Locci at the Locci Lab. Her lab is interested in the dissecting the complex biology of Tfh cells, which are a unique subset of CD4+ cells that regulate the survival of B cells. Specifically, two major goals of the Locci lab are to understand how Tfh differentiation is regulated and by what means Tfh cells enable effective B cell responses.
The overarching goal of my project was to determine the effect of using a blocking antibody on this specific protein called Protein-X in circulation. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that primarily affects the joints and connective tissue in the heart and blood vessels in both men and women. Previous research has shown that Protein X plays a critical role in the development of rheumatoid arthritis and the inflammatory response behind it. It has also been shown that levels of Protein X are increased in synovial fluid and the serum of RA patients. My project used a previously made college-induced arthritis model to study the autoimmune effects of rheumatoid arthritis with a blocking antibody that targets and blocks Protein X.
Through this project, I gained a lot of experience with ELISA plating, bacterial transformation, and intraperitoneal injection in mice. It was very fascinating to witness how my experiment was able to be tested through mouse work. With ELISAs, it was a very long process as one must go through multiple steps in order to get results read on the ELISA plate which would usually take a day. Creating graphs was also something that was very intriguing to me and learning about how to interpret a titer graph and what the results meant took a lot of getting used to. In the end, I want to thank my PI Dr. Michela Locci, my lab mentors Katlyn Lederer and Jimin Son, as well as the rest of the lab members for giving me this opportunity and learning more about immunology and the mechanisms behind Tfh cells.