Tyler Curiel, MD, MPH

Division of Hematology and Oncology, University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, TX

2010 Human Lupus Biology
2011 Gender Matters

Dr. CurielWith LRI funding, Dr. Curiel will explore an intriguing and ambitious hypothesis as to why lupus primarily affects females.

The veteran immunologist and oncologist already has laboratory and animal data to indicate that a pathway called “B7-H1” can lead to failure of critical immune system cells—regulatory T cells (Tregs)—in female but not male mice.

By assessing how “B7-H1” protects the function of Tregs in mice and then in people, he may well uncover, for the first time, a significant mechanism at play in rendering females more likely to develop lupus and other autoimmune illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. If correct, potential therapies could follow close behind.

In 2014 Dr. Curiel received a $1.12 million grant from the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program of the Department of Defense (DOD) to expands upon the groundbreaking work funded by his 2011 LRI Novel Research Grant to learn why lupus is nine times as prevalent among women than men. With this DOD grant, Dr. Curiel aims to figure out the precise set of hormone signals that allow estrogen to interfere with the body’s healthy immune function, and could lead to an important breakthrough in lupus treatment.

“With new technology we can move much more quickly than we used to in drug development,” he said. “But also, once we understand the pathways of cell signaling, we have a pretty good record of identifying a drug that’s already out there and approved for another use.”