Tiffany Weinkopff, Ph.D. – Principal Investigator

TITLE: Elucidating the role of myeloid cells in lymphangiogenesis during Leishmania infection
Cutaneous leishmaniasis is caused by several species of Leishmania parasites, and leads to a wide spectrum of clinical manifestations, ranging from self-healing lesions to chronic disease with permanent disfigurement. Control of the parasite is dependent upon the activation of macrophages to kill intracellular parasites. However, even when an appropriate adaptive immune response develops and parasites are controlled, cutaneous lesions often persist suggesting the inflammatory response can drive pathology. Therefore, the goal of our work is to define the factors that limit pathology and promote lesion resolution. Using a mouse model of leishmaniasis, we have shown vascular remodeling occurs during Leishmania infection and the VEGF-A/VEGFR-2 signaling pathway leads to the formation of new lymphatic vessels which restricts tissue inflammation. Given myeloid cells are robustly recruited to the site of infection and parasites can induce macrophage VEGF-A production, we are evaluating these cells for their role in vascular remodeling during infection. Therefore, we are combining a variety of cellular and molecular techniques, including flow cytometry, microscopy and imaging to address the role of myeloid cells in mediating lesion resolution. We hope the results from our work will provide novel strategies that target the vasculature to reduce the pathology seen in patients with non-healing lesions.

Dr. Weinkopff received her doctoral degree in Cellular Biology from the University of Georgia in Athens, GA in 2010. She completed a postdoctoral position at the University of Pennsylvania in  2016 and joined UAMS as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in April 2017.