May 2013 Research Spotlight: Hao Li

Mr. Hao Li received his M.S. degree from the Institute of Medicinal Biotechnology of the Chinese Academy of Medical Science in 2005. He joined the Hao LiGraduate Program in Microbiology at UAB in 2008 and has carried out his graduate study in Dr. John Mountz laboratory at UAB since 2008.  Mr. Li initially studied the role of IL-23 in the regulation of autoimmune disease in the BXD2 mouse model of systemic autoimmunity.  These mice develop spontaneous germinal centers (GCs) in the spleen that are highly dependent of interleukin (IL)-17.  Mr. Li made the novel and unexpected finding that IL-23 was necessary to maintain the integrity of marginal zone barrier that prevents follicular entry of apoptotic self-antigens in BXD2 mice.  This initial work led to his present findings of a novel mechanism of autoimmunity in which “leaks” in the marginal zone barrier enable entry of apoptotic Ags into the follicle Mr. Li currently studies the molecular mechanisms regulating the interactions of marginal zone macrophages and marginal zone B cells in maintaining the tolerogenic function of these cells to apoptotic self-antigens.


April 2013 Research Spotlight: Yong Zhou, MD, PhD

Dr. Yong Zhou obtained his MD degree from Wuhan University, China and his PhD degree from Kyushu University, Japan.  He has been a recipient Yong Zhouof a Japanese Government Scholarship (also known as Monbusho Scholarship) from 1997 to 2002.  He completed his postdoctoral training at the Department of Pathology, UAB and was appointed Research Associate and then promoted to Instructor of Pathology.  In 2009, Dr. Zhou was appointed Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine.  He is currently program committee member of American Thoracic Society Assembly on Respiratory Structure and Function and peer reviewer of the American Heart Association. 


March 2013 Research Spotlight: Tao Na

Dr. Tao Na received his Ph.D. degree in Clinical Pharmacy from the Pharmaceutical University in China. He joined Dr. Ji-Bin Peng's laboratory at UAB as a tao napostdoctoral scholar in 2007. Dr. Na initially studied calcium transport and regulation in the kidney.. He and his colleagues found that an African-specific variation in the epithelial calcium channel TRPV5 increases the calcium transport activity. More recently, Dr. Na focused on how the disease-causing mutations in WNK4, a protein kinase associated with a Mendelian form of hypertension, disrupt the regulation of WNK4. His studies provide novel insights into how mutations in WNK4 alter its biochemical properties and ultimately result in disease. Dr. Na completed his postdoctoral research in January, 2012. He is currently working as an investigator at the National Institutes for Food and Drug Control in China.

The main research interest of Dr. Peng's lab is the molecular mechanisms of calcium transport pathways. Specifically, the focus is on the physiological roles of epithelial calcium channels (TRPV5 and TRPV6) in calcium absorption and reabsorption and on how they are regulated under physiological and disease conditions. In addition, research efforts in Dr. Peng's lab are also directed to the regulation of WNK4 kinase, which is an integrative regulator of renal electrolyte transport pathways. This lab has developed an in vitro kinase assay for WNK4, and is currently working on how the kinase activity and protein stability of WNK4 are regulated in response to physiological signals. These studies are expected to eventually lead to new therapeutic strategies for disorders in renal electrolyte transport.

March 2013 Research spotlight (PDF)

February 2013 Research Spotlight: Jessica Merlin

Merlin-JessicaDr. Jessica Merlin's paper entitled "Pain, Mood, and Substance Abuse in HIV: Implications for Clinic Visit Utilization, Antiretroviral Therapy Adherence, and Virologic Failure", published in Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, has been selected as the Department of Medicine's paper of the month for Feburary 2013.

Dr. Jessica Merlin received her MD and MBA degrees from the University of Pennsylvania.  She went on to complete a residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and a fellowship in Palliative Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.  She is currently an Assistant Professor with joint appointments in the Divisions of Infectious Diseases and Gerontology, Geriatrics, and Palliative Care.  Her clinical work includes directing the 1917 HIV/Palliative Care clinic, which cares for many HIV-infected patients with chronic pain.

Dr. Merlin's research focus is on HIV and chronic pain, especially in patients with psychiatric and substance abuse comorbidities.  In September 2012, she received a K12 career development award to adapt, pilot, and begin to validate a Brief Chronic Pain Screening tool in HIV-infected patients, and conduct qualitative interviews to learn more about the pain experience in HIV-infected patients.  Her long-term interests are in understanding the relationship between chronic pain, alone and in the context of psychiatric illness and substance abuse, and HIV outcomes, and developing interventions to manage chronic pain in HIV-infected patients.