Assistant Professor Hao Cheng, in collaboration with Professor Elizabeth Blankenhorn in the College of Medicine, has been awarded an R21 grant by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health. The two-year grant of $430,375 will be used to study injectable biomaterial scaffolds for inducing antigen-specific tolerance to treat autoimmune disorders.
Autoimmune disorders, which arise when the body mistakenly attacks its own healthy cells, are among the most debilitating and difficult diseases to treat, affecting millions of people worldwide. Treatments of the majority of these diseases focus on either treating the symptoms or globally suppressing the immune system. Unfortunately, these treatments are usually lifelong, inadequate, and are associated with a range of adverse effects. Researches have thus focused on developing treatments that specifically block the function of self-reactive immune cells. Cheng and Blankenhorn will generate a tolerogenic environment for immune cells in situ using biomaterial scaffolds for inducing antigen-specific tolerance.