The Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation (HCT) Laboratory in the Center for Transplantation Sciences (CTS) at Massachusetts General Hospital applies basic immunologic studies toward improving the results of clinical hematopoietic cell transplantation. Hematopoietic cells are cells found in bone marrow that form the body's blood cells. HCT is a promising strategy for the treatment of both hematologic malignancies and non-malignant hematologic dyscrasias, as well as a means for achieving transplantation tolerance. Studies in this laboratory could provide substantial advances for future immunotherapeutic approaches with minimal toxicity for inducing transplantation tolerance, treating non-malignant genetic blood disorders in adults and children, and treating hematologic malignancies, including leukemias and lymphomas.
Our laboratory utilizes both Mass General-/Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC)-defined miniature swine and non-human primates as clinically relevant large-animal models for HCT. We are studying approaches for improving donor peripheral blood progenitor cell mobilization and transplantation, and have been successful in establishing stable engraftment across minor and major histocompatibility barriers without graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) using minimally toxic conditioning protocols.
Miniature swine are uniquely suited for preclinical studies involving cutaneous GVHD as their skin is similar to human skin in terms of structure of epidermal rete ridges, hair follicle structure and density, and presence of secretory glands and subcutaneous fat. We have found that when donor and host T-cell subsets are spared, strong immune regulatory cell mechanisms persist post-HCT and GVHD incidence is low. Many clinical conditioning protocols and GVHD prophylactic strategies may, in fact, disrupt these immune regulatory mechanisms. Our goal is to understand the immunological mechanisms that permit engraftment across MHC barriers without GVHD under these conditions so we can preserve these mechanisms in the clinic.
Christene A. Huang, PhD
Senior Investigator/Head, Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation Laboratory, Center for Transplantation Sciences (CTS)
Associate Immunologist, Massachusetts General Hospital
Associate Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School
Christene A. Huang, PhD, received her doctorate in immunology from the Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University in 1995 and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts General Hospital Transplantation Biology Research Center (TBRC), now known as the CTS, prior to being promoted to instructor in surgery at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and assistant in immunology at Mass General in 1999. In 2000, she received the Claflin Distinguished Scholar Award from Mass General, the Scholar in Medicine Award from HMS and a Fellowship Award from the Lymphoma Research Foundation. In 2007, Dr. Huang received the Genzyme/Partners HealthCare Translational Research Award. Dr. Huang became a senior investigator and head of the Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation Section of the Miniature Swine Transplantation Laboratory at the TBRC in 2002 and was promoted to assistant professor and more recently to associate professor of surgery at HMS.
Dr. Huang is a member of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC), the Transplantation Society, the American Society of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, the American Society of Transplantation and the American Society of Hematology. She also serves as a member of the editorial board of the journal Transplantation and as scientific co-director of the Mass General-DF/HCC Recombinant Protein Expression and Purification Core Facility.
Christene (Cunningham) Huang graduated from Stonehill College in 1985 with a major in biology and a minor in chemistry. In 1984 she was awarded a Fuller Junior Research Fellowship from the American Cancer Society and spent the summer and most of her senior year doing immunology research as an intern at the Mallory Institute of Pathology and the Clinical Immunology Laboratory at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Dr. Huang worked as a research associate in the immunology group of Hygeia Sciences in Newton, MA, from 1985 to 1988 before entering the PhD program in immunology at Tufts University
Nalu Navarro-Alvarez, MD, PhD
The Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation Laboratory is leading the following research projects: