Research Summary

Our bodies are constantly under attack by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. In addition, sometimes our own cells proliferate out of control—as seen with cancer—or attack our own body—as seen with autoimmune diseases.

The immune system is our body’s army and protects us against all of the above enemies at all times. The immune system must be tightly regulated, since fighting an infection with too much ammunition may cause significant collateral damage. In 1995, one of the most critical immunological advances in the past 50 years occurred: the discovery of regulatory immune cells that inhibit the immune response, preventing it from getting out of control. We now know that there are many regulatory immune cells in our bodies that keeps the immune system under a tight control.

The Riella Laboratory is focused on understanding these mechanisms of immune regulation in order to develop smarter and more efficient ways to control the immune system and prevent organ rejection after transplantation.

Significance to Patient Care

The research conducted by Leonardo V. Riella, MD, PhD, and his laboratory team has the goal of prolonging the life of transplanted organs by better detecting transplant rejection and applying novel treatments to re-educate the immune cells to tolerate the transplanted organ.

Research Projects

Development of novel drugs to promote immune regulation

Immunosuppressive medications are associated with significant body toxicity. Novel treatments to minimize their use are highly needed to prevent rejection and treat autoimmunity. Using cutting-edge technologies, murine and humanized transplant models, we study the mechanisms involved in the regulation of the immune system. Our ultimate goal is to develop novel therapeutics that would help re-educate the immune system to tolerate the transplanted organ.

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Investigation of antibody-mediated rejection

Antibody-mediated rejection is the leading cause of kidney loss after transplantation. We are studying how antibodies cause injury post-transplant and how to use the regulatory mechanisms of the immune system to shut off antibody production.

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Development of a urine test to earlier detect transplant rejection

Currently, expensive and invasive tests such as biopsies are needed to detect problems with the transplanted organ. We have developed a novel, inexpensive and sensitive urine test to detect early signs of rejection after transplantation, adapting a CRISPR/Cas13 platform technology. We are now validating the technology in our transplanted patients to help guide their management.

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Recurrence of glomerular disease post-transplant (in particular FSGS)

Recurrence of kidney disease is the third leading cause of kidney transplant loss. To tackle this problem, we have established the largest collaborative international effort to study glomerular disease recurrence, the TANGO study. The goal of TANGO is to better understand the underlying causes of recurrence (genetic, environmental, immune dysregulation) and promote the development of novel therapies.

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Impact of nutrition on the immune system

The diet has an enormous influence on the microbiota and on the immune system. Our group investigates the complementary role of certain dietary changes in regulating auto-immune diseases (GENIE study) and the rejection process post-transplantation (JASN).

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Research Positions

To apply for a research position in the Riella Laboratory, please email the following items to Dr. Riella:

  • A curriculum vitae
  • A statement of interest and career goals
  • Names and contact information of at least three references

Email your application

Group picture of the Riella Laboratory

Our Team

Principal Investigator

Leonardo V. Riella, MD, PhD

Email Dr. Riella

Team Members

  • Thiago Borges, PhD, instructor
  • Pedro Ventura Abreu Aguiar, MD, post-doc
  • Nora Alzahrani, MD, post-doc
  • Orhan Efe, MD, post-doc
  • Yoshikazu Ganchiku, MD, post-doc
  • Rodrigo Gassen, PhD, post-doc
  • Frank Hullekes, graduate student
  • Ayman Al Jurdi, MD, post-doc
  • Isadora Lape, research assistant
  • Daniel Marconi Mendes, PhD candidate
  • Guilherme Ribas, PhD, post-doc
  • Audrey Uffing, MD, PhD student
  • Karim Yatim, MD, post-doc


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