Department of Medicine

University of Pittsburgh

Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology
S700 Biomedical Science Tower
3500 Terrace Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15261
Phone: (412) 383-8000

Welcome to the Gaffen Lab

T cell-derived cytokines are critical for mediating host defense against infectious disease, but they also mediate disease pathology in autoimmunity. In the last few years a new type of CD4+ T cell was discovered that plays a key role in autoimmunity. Distinct from the classic Th1 and Th2 populations, these cells are termed "Th17" based on their production of the signature effector cytokine IL-17. A number of innate immune cells also produce IL-17, such as gamma delta -T cells, and this cytokine appears to link innate and adaptive immunity in a variety of ways. IL-17 and its receptor are unique in structure and sequence from other known cytokines, and the Gaffen lab was among the first to study signaling mechanisms mediated by this novel family of cytokines. Dr. Gaffen's group takes a variety of biochemical, molecular and in vivo approaches to defining IL-17-mediated Signaling. In addition, members of the Gaffen lab demonstrated that IL-17 is critical for immunity to mucosal fungal infection with the commensal yeast Candida albicans. Research in the Gaffen lab is now heavily focused on defining the biological function of IL-17 and its receptor in the context of the oral mucosa. Lastly, treatment of autoimmune diseases has been revolutionized in the last decade or so by "biologic" drugs that neutralize cytokines, such as etanercept (a TNF receptor antagonist) and tocilizumab (an IL-6 receptor antagonist). Many of these drugs target the Th17/IL-17 pathway, and antibodies to IL-17 are now in clinical trials. Dr. Gaffen's group is attempting to understand the physiological impact of cytokine blockade in humans, particularly with respect to the IL-17 signaling pathway and its effects on susceptibility to mucosal infections such as oral candidiasis.

Sarah Gaffen, PhD
Associate Professor
S703 BST South
3500 Terrace Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15261

Phone: 412-383-8903
Fax: 412-383-8864