Infectious Disease Research

From new strategies for prevention to innovative treatments and revealing insights into the pathogenesis of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), investigators in the Division of Infectious Disease are making significant strides in AIDS research. While unquestionably a leader in AIDS research, research in the division spans many areas. The division is home to the Emerging Pathogens Center, HIV-Associated Nephropathy Program, HIV Clinical Trials, Microbicide Development Program, and Transplantation Infectious Diseases Program.

In addition to these programs other major areas of research include studies of individuals co-infected with HIV and Hepatitis C, innate viral immunity, the interplay between HIV-1 and innate intracellular defenses, the host-pathogen interactions with the intracellular pathogens, salmonella and francisella and the epidemiology of hospital-acquired infections and emerging pathogens.

Many of the division's projects are multi-disciplinary with colleagues from Mount Sinai's Department of Microbiology, the Recanati Miller Transplantation Institute, Department of Pediatrics, the Department of Medicine's Division of Nephrology and Liver Medicine and others throughout Icahn School of Medicine.

The Division has an NIH training grant to support physician scientists seeking advanced training in viral pathogenesis and participates in additional training grants for students and post-doctoral candidates interested in participating in the ongoing research projects within the division.

The infectious diseases research program is listed below:

The Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine has a multitude of research initiatives currently underway.

PI: Nicole M. Bouvier, MD
Host, viral, and environmental factors affecting the respiratory transmission of influenza viruses
We study the physiology, aerobiology, and immunology of influenza in guinea pigs and ferrets, as models of influenza disease and virus transmission in humans. We also collaborate with engineering colleagues to describe quantitatively the complex environmental phenomena that influence the airborne transmission of respiratory viruses.

PI: Benjamin K. Chen, MD, PhD
Mechanisms of HIV virological synapse formation and pathogeneis 
HIV-1 infection is facilitated by cell-cell adhesions between infected and uninfected T cells called virological synapses (VS).  We investigate the cellular mechanisms of VS formation and how this process promotes genetic diversity and immune evasion.   Using humanized mouse models we explore what role VS play in transmission and viral persistence.

PI: Daniel Seth Fierer, MD
Acute hepatitis C virus infection and HCV/HIV co-infections
Dr. Fierer’s active research includes clinical trials of new therapeutics; surveillance for HCV in men taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) against HIV infection; and the molecular epidemiology of sexually transmitted HCV among men who have sex with men. He also coordinates the New York Acute Hepatitis C Surveillance Network.

PI: Michael Gaisa, MD 
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection in immunocompromised hosts
Dr. Gaisa’s clinical research focuses on the epidemiology, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of HPV-associated anal dysplasia and anal squamous cell carcinoma in HIV-infected individuals.  He also directs the Anal Dysplasia Program at the Mount Sinai Health System.

PI: Catarina Hioe, PhD
HIV Envelope-mediated immunity and immunopathogenesis
We currently have multiple synergistic projects that study HIV immunity and immune-pathogenesis, with the ultimate goal of developing preventive or therapeutic vaccines against HIV. Our research program investigates the interplay between antibody and helper T cell responses to the HIV envelope in preventing HIV infection and disease.

PI: Shirish Huprikar, MD
Prevention and management of infections in transplant recipients
Our research has focused in the following areas: prevention of CMV disease in organ transplant recipients; kidney and liver transplantation in HIV patients; epidemiology of multi drug resistant bacterial infections in organ transplant recipients; and donor transmitted infections.

PI: Jennifer Jao, MD, MPH 
Metabolic complications of in utero HIV and antiretroviral exposure in HIV-seronegative children
Dr. Jao leads clinical cohorts in the U.S. and Africa in which she studies the long-term metabolic health of uninfected children born to HIV+ mothers.  She uses targeted metabolomics to explore derangements in fuel utilization, mitochondrial function, and insulin sensitivity that result from in utero exposure to HIV or antiretrovirals.

PI: Elizabeth Miller, MD
Therapeutic vaccine approaches for HIV-infected individuals
We study myeloid dendritic cell (DC) dysregulation during HIV-1 infection, focusing on the development of DC-focused immunotherapies that boost the immune response against HIV in chronically infected persons. We also evaluate immunotherapeutic adjuvants, like toll-like receptor agonists, that enhance innate immune responses and may disrupt HIV latency.

PI: Meagan O’Brien, MD
HIV sensing by Dendritic Cells
Dendritic cells are antigen presenting cells that link innate and adaptive immunity. Dr. O’Brien studies HIV-dendritic cell interactions to understand how the virus co-opts these cells to maximize infection and inflammation while minimizing immunity.

Targeting Platelets in Chronic HIV Infection
HIV infected patients have an increased risk of cardiovascular events. Through clinical trials and translational studies, Dr. O’Brien the role of platelets as pro-inflammatory cells in chronic HIV infection.

PI: Mary Jane Potash, PhD
Innate immunity to control HIV infection and brain disease in mice
Using a chimeric HIV, we are investigating routes of innate immune control of HIV replication and pathogenesis. We are studying the optimal induction of innate immunity and identifying host factors essential for protection against cognitive disease. With Co-Principal Investigator David J. Volsky, PhD.

PI: Talia H. Swartz, MD, PhD
The role of purinergic receptors in HIV infection and inflammation
Our research focuses on understanding the role of HIV infection in chronic inflammation. Purinergic receptors are pro-inflammatory mediators that are required for HIV infection. We study how purinergic receptor signaling is activated by HIV infection and regulates pro-inflammatory cytokine production.

PI: Sarah Taimur, MD 
Prevention and management of infections in the immunosuppressed host population
Dr. Taimur’s research focuses on the infectious complications of solid organ and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.  Current studies include the effect of prior artificial heart placement on infections arising after heart transplant and the impact of donor microbiological cultures on organ recipient outcomes.

PI: David J. Volsky, PhD
Development of mouse model of HIV infection and disease
Using genetically modified HIV (chimeric HIV) capable of infection of conventional mouse strains, we study the natural history of HIV infection, HIV reservoirs in T cells and macrophages, mechanisms of HIV reactivation, host anti-HIV responses, and anti-HIV interventions in mice. With Co-Principal Investigator Mary Jane Potash, PhD.

Mechanisms of HIV brain disease
We study the origin and control of HIV neuropathogenesis at the cognitive, tissue, cellular, molecular, epigenetic, and systems biology levels using autopsy specimens from HIV-infected people and mice experimentally infected by a chimeric HIV.

Role of opiates in HIV brain disease
We study the contribution of chronic morphine use to the pathogenesis and severity of cognitive dysfunction in HIV infected mice at the cognitive, tissue, cellular, molecular, epigenetic level, and conduct preclinical intervention research in mice with pharmaceuticals acting at the epigenetic control of memory.

Treatment of HIV cognitive dysfunction with intranasal insulin
We are conducting preclinical efficacy and pharmacological evaluation of intranasally administered insulin in HIV infected mice as treatment for cognitive dysfunction, in preparation for clinical trial in HIV infected patients.   

PI: Susan Zolla-Pazner, PhD
Focusing the immune response to induce broadly reactive antibodies against HIV
Antibodies play a central role in protection against HIV infection. We study human antibody responses to HIV and use this knowledge to construct “designer immunogens” that induce antibodies that protect against HIV infection in preclinical models.