Transplantation Biology Research Center


Turka Laboratory

The Turka Laboratory in the Transplantation Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital investigates the cellular and molecular aspects of T cell tolerance, with a particular interest in mechanisms of transplant tolerance.

The Turka Laboratory in the Transplantation Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital investigates three major research areas. The first program researches the role of CD28 in Treg development. Our laboratory was the first to demonstrate that the blockade of CD28 signals can prevent allograft rejection. Using new conditional CD28 knockout mice generated in our lab, and various Cre strains, we are examining the role of CD28 in Treg development, conversion and survival, and CD28’s importance for maintaining established T effector-driven immune responses, including transplantation, autoimmunity and helper-dependent antibody production.

Our second program researches the role of the PI3 kinase (PI3K) pathway in regulatory T cells. The tumor suppressor gene, Pten, a lipid phosphatase, is the primary negative regulator of PI3K in T cells. Using mice with Pten deficiency targeted to Tregs, as well as chemical inhibitors of PI3K, we are examining the role of PI3K in regulatory T cell homeostasis. Coupled with this project are studies of T cell metabolism as modulated by PI3K, and the degree to which glycolysis versus oxidative metabolism can dictate T cell fate and function. 

Our third major program is the role of Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and the coupled adaptor protein MyD88 in T cells. TLRs are expressed on activated T cells and provide survival and co-stimulatory signals that may regulate cellular energy utilization pathways and thus fate determination. These observations are currently being explored in vivo models of immune responses such as infection and transplantation using T cell specific MyD88-deficient animals.

Principal Investigator
Laurence A. Turka, MD  
Co-Director, Transplantation Biology Research Center                         
Co-Director, Harvard Institute for Translational Immunology
Harold and Ellen Danser Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School
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Laurence A. Turka, MD, received his Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude, in biochemistry from Colgate University in 1978, and his Doctor of Medicine from Yale University in 1982. He did his internship and residency in Internal Medicine at Yale-New Haven Hospital from 1982-1985, followed by a fellowship in Nephrology at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School. Upon completion of his fellowship in 1988, Dr. Turka was an Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan, where he became a tenured Associate Professor in 1993. In 1994, he moved to the University of Pennsylvania, where, in 1998, he was promoted to Professor of Medicine and became the Chief of the Renal-Electrolyte and Hypertension Division. From 1999-2009, he was the C. Mahlon Kline Professor of Medicine, and held secondary appointments as Professor in the Departments of Surgery, Pediatrics, and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. In 2009, he was recruited to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Harvard Medical School) as Co-Director of The Transplant Institute and Co-Chief of the Division of Transplantation Immunology. In 2010, he became the Co-Director of the newly created Harvard Institute of Translational Immunology. Dr. Turka was recruited to Massachusetts General Hospital as Co-Director of the Transplantation Biology Research Center in January 2013.
Dr. Turka is a former President of the American Society of Transplantation and has served on numerous National Institutes of Health committees, including a term as Chair of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Board of Scientific Counselors (2002-2007). In 2004 he was appointed as Deputy Director of the Immune Tolerance Network, and in 2007 he was chosen for a five-year term as Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Clinical Investigation. Among his honors are the Jerome Conn Award for Distinguished Research (University of Michigan, 1993), the American Society of Nephrology Young Investigator Award (1996) and the American Society of Transplantation Established Investigator Award (2005). He was elected to membership in the American Society of Clinical Investigation (1995), the Association of American Physicians (2003) and the Interurban Clinical Club (2010). 

JiHoon Chang, PhD
Ruan Zhang, PhD

Research Fellows
Ryan Newton, PhD
Bhavana Priyadharshini, PhD
Nicholas Zwang, PhD

Chris Borges
Martin Fan
Kelsey Finn
Alexandria Huynh

Laboratory Manager/Post-award Grant Administrator
Sharon Germana, MS

Staff Assistant III/Pre-award Grant Administrator
Jennifer Mason

The Turka Laboratory leads the following research projects:

  • The role of CD28 in Treg development, conversion and survival, and CD28’s importance for maintaining established T-effect or driven immune responses
  • The role of the PI3 kinase pathway in regulatory T cells
  • The role of Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and the coupled adaptor protein MyD88 in T cells

Leadership changes at the Transplantation Biology Research Center

After more than two decades of leading the MGH Transplantation Biology Research Center (TBRC), David H. Sachs, MD, is stepping down from his role as director.

Guiding future research

Some 80 people attended the MGH Transplant Research Symposium on Nov. 18 and 19 at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard in Cambridge to review current transplant research and to generate a comprehensive, strategic plan to help guide future research efforts.

Immune Tolerance Network’s TrialShare wins national award

Massachusetts General Hospital's Bioinformatics Group, of the Immune Tolerance Network in Bethesda, Maryland, wins the National Academy of Sciences Data and Information Challenge.