Welcome to the Chen Lab »

Our research group is based in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Perinatology Research Branch (PRB) of Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute. We are also a member of the Mucosal Immunology Studies Team (MIST) of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH.

We have several lines of investigation. Immunological concepts and technologies are integral to our research. We work collaboratively with leading immunologists in the US, Europe and Asia.

First, we study the immune regulation of reproduction and mucosal immunity of the female reproductive tract. A large number of common reproductive disorders have an immunological basis. We want to harness the knowledge gained from our work to develop diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive strategies to reduce adverse pregnancy outcomes, infant mortality and disability.

Mucosal immunity in the female reproductive tract
The female reproductive mucosal immune system protects the host against infections and adapts to a spectrum of physiological events, such as menstruation and pregnancy. In reproductive mucosal areas, the immune system confers frontline protection. Dysregulation of reproductive mucosal immune responses are associated with a variety of pregnancy complications and failure. We are studying the immune regulation of pregnancy and analyzing how mechanisms regulating the normal behaviors of immune cells break down in pathological pregnancy, and whether the restoration of these mechanisms can alleviate or prevent diseases.

Development of new maternal vaccines
Maternal vaccination, a form of vaccination given to women of child-bearing age aimed at protecting the mother and the baby against infections, has achieved much progress in the past decade, with several maternal vaccines recommended to all pregnant women in each pregnancy. However, there are still a large number of infectious pathogens aginst which no vaccines are available for pregnant women. Leveraging our expertise in basic immunology, we are studying the immune protection mechansims induced by maternal vaccination in order to develop maternal vaccines with better efficacy and safety.

Second, we study the regulation of antibody maturation and its defects in immunodeficiency and autoimmune diseases. We apply a diverse array of cellular, histological and molecular techniques to elucidate mechanisms of antibody maturation and production by B cells, including heavy chain class switching and somatic hypermutation. These processes are critical for the diversification of the antibody repertoire to generate effective immune protection and avoid autoimmune diseases. The cellular and molecular mechanisms of class switching and somatic hypermutation are under investigation.

Third, we study the pathogenesis of gynecologic malignancies with the goal of identifying biomarkers for early cancer diagnosis and accurate prognosis and molecular targets for treatment. We employ cell culture-, patient specimen- and mouse model-based strategies to elucidate the cellular and molecular pathways underlying the growth, metastasis and immunomodulation of epithelial ovarian cancer. Our current focuses are the identification of novel biomarkers of ovarian cancer prognosis and the regulation of the ovarian cancer immune microenvironment.

We are a team of diverse and energetic researchers dedicated to performing good quality research. Former group members and trainees have moved on to take up independent and key positions in both the academia and the industry.

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