(2017-2019) - MENTOR: Dr. Xunrong Luo, M.D., Ph.D
Dr. Lee's research in the Luo lab relates to immunology and focuses on tolerance mechanisms in transplantation. Specifically, the Luo lab investigates potential curative therapies for Type I Diabetes (T1D), a chronic autoimmune disorder that is characterized by progressive destruction of pancreatic islet cells. Among current therapies for T1D, pancreatic islet cell transplantation is a promising treatment, but is limited by the lack of available human donors and continuous need for immunosuppression. Using mouse models of allogeneic (mouse to mouse) pancreatic islet cell transplantation, the Luo lab has developed a successful therapy that when given around the time of transplantation establishes tolerance (a permanent state of unresponsiveness to foreign antigen without the need for immunosuppression). To address the lack of human donor sources of islet cells and potential use of porcine islet cells for transplantation, these strategies have been expanded to xenogeneic (rat to mouse, pig to mouse, etc) islet cell transplantation and have had more complex results requiring further investigations to achieve tolerance. Dr. Lee's main project is currently investigating tolerance mechanisms in xenogeneic islet cell transplantation using humanized mouse models (genetically immunodeficient mice transplanted with a functional human immune system) as a means of studying the human immune system response to pig islet cell transplantation.