Research Centers

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Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation Laboratory

The Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation Laboratory in the Transplantation Biology Research Center studies the immunology of hematopoietic cell transplantation with the goal of eliminating immunological barriers in patients with cancers and other diseases that affect the blood, bone marrow and lymph nodes.

The Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation (HCT) Laboratory in the Transplantation Biology Research Center (TBRC) 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.

Principal Investigator
Christene A. Huang, PhD
Senior Investigator/Head, Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation Laboratory, TBRC
Associate Immunologist, Massachusetts General Hospital
Associate Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School
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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) 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

Research Fellows
Mihail Climov, MD
Aarti Patil, MBBS

The Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation Laboratory is leading the following research projects:

  • Study of the immunological mechanisms controlling graft-versus-host (GVH) and host-versus-graft (HVG)alloresponses that allow stem cell engraftment without graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) following hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT)
  • Study of immune modulation of allogeneic antibody responses following HCT and transient chimerism establishment
  • Assessment of therapeutic approaches to treat acute and chronic GVHD in swine
  • Development of novel stem/progenitor cell mobilization strategies to improve engraftment with mild conditioning in the clinic
  • Pathogenesis of post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD)
  • Development of a transplantable tumor model in miniature swine to directly assess graft versus tumor responses of HCT and delayed donor leukocyte infusion
  • In collaboration with other laboratories at the Transplantation Biology Resource Center, investigating induction of transplantation tolerance to several organs including, heart, lung, kidney and vascularized composite tissue allografts through HCT