GENITAL TRACT BIOLOGY Raina N. Fichorova, MD, PhD, Director DIVISION MEMBERS Jennifer M. Chen, BA Grace Hsu, BS Vanessa Tang Radiana T. Trifonova, PhD Hidemi Yamamoto Huaiping Yuan Students and Interns Eric Gremo Robert Jablonowski Aminah Jagun Bi Yu Li Susan Read Stanthia Ryan MISSION To advance medical knowledge, prevention and cure of inflammatory conditions sequelae in the female genital tract. ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN AY 2008-2009 Our main goal is to advance women’s health by conducting translational research with a focus on reproductive tract immunology. Understanding the vaginal mucosal environment holds the key to solving major problems in reproduction, gynecologic cancer and sexually transmitted disease. Our lab worked on seven externally funded research projects related to 1) identifying epithelial cell pathways and innate immune mechanisms associated with resistance and susceptibility to infection in the female genital tract, 2) development of vaginal microbicides for prevention of sexually transmitted disease and 3) discovery of biomarkers of inflammation and immune dysregulation. We have become the flagship for standardization of cytokine testing in vaginal secretions. Dr. Fichorova chaired an international cytokine quality control advisory group that involved fourteen leading immunology/virology laboratories around the world. We published in Analytical Chemistry the results from this multi-center NIH-funded study identifying biological and technical variables affecting cytokine measurement in complex biological matrix. We conduct cutting edge work on development of vaginal microbicides for prevention of HIV-1 and other sexually transmitted infections. We received a new award from the Contraceptive Research and Development Program (CONRAD) to study mechanisms of microbicide interaction with the vaginal microflora and epithelial innate immune function and published results from our novel in vitro method for microbicide evaluation. Under a R21/R33 NIH Phased Innovation Award we collaborated with Osel Inc., reaching important milestones in the development of a novel live microbicide for women. With NIH funding the lab is studying mechanisms of host innate immunity to T. vaginalis, the most common non-viral sexually transmitted pathogen. Trichomoniasis affects annually over 180 million people world-wide, including 8-10 million Americans. It is linked to preterm delivery (40%), low birth weight, particularly in the African-American community, infertility and cervical cancer. It also predisposes women to HIV and other viral infections. We identified and characterized the molecular domains of the major Trichomonas glycocnjugate that are responsible for proinflammatory responses by the human vaginal epithelial cells, published in Glyconjugate Journal. Two projects aim at identifying early biomarkers of preterm labor and complications in extremely low gestation age neonates (ELGAN). The Laboratory maintains the dry blood spot repository for the nation-wide NIH-funded ELGAN study. We have successfully set up several multiplex biomarker assays optimized for ELGAN blood spots and have cataloged and stored nearly 15,000. EDUCATION We welcomed a new research assistant, Vanessa Tang, who is preparing to apply for residency in OB/GYN. Estee Fleischman, who received a Rapaporte Foundation Summer Internship Grant from the Women's and Gender Studies Program at Brandeis for her research project in our lab, now works at the NIH/NIAID Laboratory of Immunoregulation. Hidemi Yamamoto, who was a recipient of the Harvard University Extension School Faculty Aid Grant to do research in our Laboratory, successfully graduated with BSA and is now a full-time research assistant with us. Dr. Radiana Trifonova, a postdoctoral trainee since October 2004, first-authored a paper in 2008 and obtained her second postdoctoral position at Children’s Hospital Boston. Dr. Fichorova chaired the first of its kind wet workshop on preclinical evaluation of anti-HIV-1 microbicides in Pune, India. She tutored for the HMS Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology Course and participated in the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) for HMS second year class in the Patient Doctor II course. She served as Laboratory Inspector for the Commission for Laboratory Accreditation, College of American Pathologists and was reviewer for Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, Analytical Chemistry, Journal of Virological Methods, Parasitology, and Sexually Transmitted Diseases etc. She served as a grant reviewer for NIH ARRA Challenge Grant applications and for the Department of Science and Technology, Republic of South Africa. PARTNERS TEAM PROJECTS We continue collaborations with scientists from the BWH Department of Pathology and OB/GYN Epidemiology Division, investigating biological mechanisms underlying risk of ovarian cancer and study vaginal microflora-epithelial interactions with Dr. A. Onderdonk at the Channing Laboratory. GOALS FOR AY 2008-2009 Expand our basic research on vaginal mucosal immunity and continue performing translational research toward validation of biochemical markers of vaginal inflammation and immune dysfunction. Continue offering educational experience to premedical students, HMS students and OB/GYN residents and fellows.