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Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Chenthamarakshan Vasu, PhD

Associate Professor
Microbiology and Immunology

Chentha Vasu, PhD

Director of Translational and Transplantation Immunology
Department of Surgery
Hollings Cancer Center, HO-612A
College of Medicine

Contact Information
Medical University of South Carolina
86 Jonathan Lucas St
Charleston, SC 29425
Phone: 843-792-1032
Fax: 843-792-9588

1997-1999 Postdoctoral Fellow, University Malaya
1999-2002 Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Illinois at Chicago
2002-2004 Research Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
2004-2011 Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago

PhD in Biochemistry/Immunology: Nagpur University, India

Research Interests
Research interests of Dr. Vasu’s Lab include: 1) understanding the immune tolerance mechanism, 2) developing novel strategies to treat autoimmunity and transplant rejection, and 3) designing novel dendritic cell based therapeutic approaches for tumors.

Co-stimulation and co-repression in immune tolerance: Co-stimulatory and co-repressor pathways are considered essential for T cell activation, differentiation, and regulation of immune response. Dr. Vasu’s Lab, therefore, believes that a thorough understanding of the role of these signaling pathways in T cell function is very important for developing intervention strategies against immune mediated disorders. Primary focus of this project is on understanding the role of signaling through CD28, CTLA-4, PD-1 and BTLA in maintaining peripheral tolerance. These studies can lead to development of effective targeted immunotherapy approaches for autoimmunity and transplant rejection.

Innate immune receptors on mucosal immune tolerance: Immune cells in the intestinal mucosa provide first line of defense against microbial invasion. However, these cells are continuously exposed to microbial and food components, and if the immune response is not held in check, then the development of an exaggerated immune response could lead to chronic inflammatory disorders. One of the recently initiated projects in Dr. Vasu’s Lab is focused on understanding the role of innate immune receptors such as TLR2 and dectin 1 in promoting tolerogenic immune response and/or preventing inflammation. Studies are focused on understanding the differences in the innate immune responses between intestinal immune cells and their peripheral counterparts when these receptors are engaged. The ultimate goal of this study is to appropriately and safely manipulate the immune response of intestinal mucosa using dietary approaches for treating autoimmunity.

Approaches to treat autoimmunity and Transplant rejection: Traditional therapeutic approaches for autoimmune diseases and transplant rejection have relied upon administration of immunosuppressive agents which results in global, non-specific attenuation of the immune response with side effects and variable therapeutic outcomes. Dr. Vasu’s Lab is also focused on developing and testing novel antigen specific targeted immune tolerance strategies for these clinical conditions. In one approach dendritic cells are engineered to manipulate signaling at the immune synapse during antigen presentation. The other strategy involves use of microsphere based artificial antigen presenting system for targeted deletion of pathogenic T cells, and induction and expansion of antigen specific Tregs with the ability to suppress autoimmunity and transplant rejection.

Tumor immunotherapy: In spite of the antigen specificity of considerable number of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) and T cells in the peripheral blood and tumor microenvironment, these cells are not capable of clearing tumors due to their immunosuppressive or tolerant nature. Dr. Vasu’s Lab is developing novel engineered dendritic cell based strategies not only to generate a strong anti-tumor effector T cell response, but also to convert existing tumor specific suppressor/regulatory T cells into IL-17 producing effector T cells in vivo for effectively eliminating cancer cells. This strategy exploits the suppressive environment of tumors for converting tolerant T cells to tumor antigen specific effector T cells.

Recent Publications | Additional Publications

Donor pretreatment with nebulized complement C3a receptor antagonist mitigates brain-death induced immunological injury post-lung transplant.
Cheng Q, Patel K, Lei B, Rucker L, Allen DP, Zhu P, Vasu C, Martins PN, Goddard M, Nadig SN, Atkinson C.
Am J Transplant. 2018 Mar 5. doi: 10.1111/ajt.14717. [Epub ahead of print]

Blocking TCR restimulation induced necroptosis in adoptively transferred T cells improves tumor control.
Kesarwani P, Chakraborty P, Gudi R, Chatterjee S, Scurti G, Toth K, Simms P, Husain M, Armeson K, Husain S, Garrett-Mayer E, Vasu C, Nishimura MI, Mehrotra S.
Oncotarget. 2016 Oct 25;7(43):69371-69383. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.12674.

Response to Comment on Sofi et al. pH of Drinking Water Influences the Composition of Gut Microbiome and Type 1 Diabetes Incidence. Diabetes 2014;63:632-644.
Sofi MH, Johnson BM, Gudi R, Wolf KJ, Lorenz RG, Vasu C.
Diabetes. 2015 Aug;64(8):e20-1. doi: 10.2337/db15-0554. No abstract available.

Impact of dietary deviation on disease progression and gut microbiome composition in lupus-prone SNF1 mice.
Johnson BM, Gaudreau MC, Al-Gadban MM, Gudi R, Vasu C.
Clin Exp Immunol. 2015 Aug;181(2):323-37. doi: 10.1111/cei.12609.

Centrobin-mediated regulation of the centrosomal protein 4.1-associated protein (CPAP) level limits centriole length during elongation stage.
Gudi R, Haycraft CJ, Bell PD, Li Z, Vasu C.
J Biol Chem. 2015 Mar 13;290(11):6890-902. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M114.603423. Epub 2015 Jan 23.

Gender bias in lupus: does immune response initiated in the gut mucosa have a role?
Gaudreau MC, Johnson BM, Gudi R, Al-Gadban MM, Vasu C.
Clin Exp Immunol. 2015 Jun;180(3):393-407. doi: 10.1111/cei.12587. Epub 2015 Apr 29.

TLR2- and Dectin 1-associated innate immune response modulates T-cell response to pancreatic β-cell antigen and prevents type 1 diabetes.
Karumuthil-Melethil S, Sofi MH, Gudi R, Johnson BM, Perez N, Vasu C.
Diabetes. 2015 Apr;64(4):1341-57. doi: 10.2337/db14-1145. Epub 2014 Nov 5.

Reducing CD73 expression by IL1β-Programmed Th17 cells improves immunotherapeutic control of tumors.
Chatterjee S, Thyagarajan K, Kesarwani P, Song JH, Soloshchenko M, Fu J, Bailey SR, Vasu C, Kraft AS, Paulos CM, Yu XZ, Mehrotra S.
Cancer Res. 2014 Nov 1;74(21):6048-59. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-14-1450. Epub 2014 Sep 9.

Fungal β-glucan, a Dectin-1 ligand, promotes protection from type 1 diabetes by inducing regulatory innate immune response.
Karumuthil-Melethil S, Gudi R, Johnson BM, Perez N, Vasu C.
J Immunol. 2014 Oct 1;193(7):3308-21. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1400186. Epub 2014 Aug 20.

A novel pancreatic β-cell targeting bispecific-antibody (BsAb) can prevent the development of type 1 diabetes in NOD mice.
Bhattacharya P, Fan J, Haddad C, Essani A, Gopisetty A, Elshabrawy HA, Vasu C, Prabhakar BS.
Clin Immunol. 2014 Jul;153(1):187-98. doi: 10.1016/j.clim.2014.04.014. Epub 2014 May 2.


Research Support

U01 AI125859-01                                             Yang/Liu (PI)                                             06/01/2016-05/31/2021
Extrinsic and intrinsic factors regulating commensal-specific T helper-17 cells
The goal of this study is to understand how Th17 cells develop in the intestinal mucosa. Role: Co-Investigator

R21DE026965-01                                           Gudi/Vasu (multi-PIs)                                   03/01/2017-02/28/2019
A novel ESCRT-associated regulatory mechanism of EMT
The primary goal is to determine the role of a centriole biogenesis protein CPAP in regulating EGFR signaling and epithelial-mesenchymal transition.

R21AI133798-01                                             PI: Vasu                                                        06/01/2017-05/31/2019
Contribution of Gut Symbiotic Bacteria to Autoimmunity
Goal: Determine the impact of systemic immune response induced by Bacteroides fragilis on Type 1 Diabetes.

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