Recent Basic Science Faculty

  • Rachel H. Bonami, Ph.D.

    Rachel H. Bonami, Ph.D.

    Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology & Immunology

    VUSM Faculty Profile

    Dr. Bonami has received a grant from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). This is a 3-year Strategic Research Agreement. Here is a summary of her research project: Abnormalities in the immune system are present long before Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed in the clinic, as indicated by the early presence of islet autoantibodies in the pre-symptomatic stages of the disease. We do not yet understand the immune system glitches that push B lymphocytes to inappropriately respond to islet autoantigens, engage autoreactive T cells, and morph into autoantibody-secreting cells. Our objectives are: 1) To immunologically define how B lymphocyte recognition of beta cells evolves during the early stages of disease, and 2) To discover which B lymphocyte subsets harbor insulin autoimmunity during the pre-symptomatic period. We expect this information about the early disease process to highlight novel characteristics of B lymphocytes to target for T1D prevention.Research Interests:Autoantigen specific T and B lymphocytes interact to promote autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. My research is focused on identifying and selectively blocking these cognate interactions to prevent disease. My current investigations also include the dynamic interplay that occurs between lymphocytes and the microbiome, and how this might be modulated to prevent autoimmune disease.

  • Danielle Dean, Ph.D.

    Danielle Dean, Ph.D.

    Research Instructor in Medicine
    Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology, & Metabolism
    Powers Lab

    VUSM Faculty Profile

    Dr. Dean's longtime interests have been to understand how nutritional status and other environmental factors stimulate cell proliferation and affect the susceptibility of vulnerable cells to degeneration. Her current interests are the determinants of endocrine mass, specifically pancreatic islet alpha cell mass. While much effort has been focused on understanding beta cell biology because of insulin's well known role in diabetes, very little is known about signals regulating other islet cells. Alpha cells secrete glucagon in response to hypoglycemia, but persons with diabetes have hyperglucagonemia contributing to hyperglycemia. Struck by the impressive alpha cell hyperplasia and hyperglucagonemia in mice with interrupted glucagon signaling, Dr. Dean sought to identify the mechanism underlying this during her postdoctoral training. She identified that unknown circulating factors stimulate alpha cell hyperplasia in mice with interrupted glucagon signaling. She then collaborated with multiple investigators at Vanderbilt and other institutions to identify that these circulating factors are amino acids defining a novel hepatic-pancreatic islet alpha cell axis. She demonstrated that this effect is conserved in human alpha cells suggesting that this axis is relevant to human biology and disease. Her current interests are 1) to define the mechanism of how amino acids are sensed by alpha cells to stimulate proliferation and glucagon secretion and 2) to investigate the role of amino acids on alpha cell dysfunction in diabetes.

  • Cassianne Robinson-Cohen, Ph.D.

    Cassianne Robinson-Cohen, Ph.D.

    Assistant Professor of Medicine

    VUSM Faculty Profile

    Dr. Robinson-Cohen’s empirical work has been in the areas of cardiovascular, clinical, and genetic epidemiology. She mainly focuses on understanding risk factors for and consequences of mineral metabolism disturbances in the general population and in chronic kidney disease. She is also interested in identifying risk factors and potential treatment options to address the disproportionate burden of cardiovascular disease in the setting of chronic kidney disease.

  • Carlos Henrique Serezani, Ph.D.

    Carlos Henrique Serezani, Ph.D.

    Assistant Professor of Medicine

    VUSM Faculty Profile

    The Serezani laboratory aims to develop therapeutic strategies to control systemic (sepsis) and localized infections (skin and lung) in healthy individuals, individuals with immune deficiencies, and those suffering from chronic inflammatory diseases, such as diabetes. We have concentrated much of our efforts in understanding the role of the lipid mediators leukotriene B4 and prostaglandin E2 and their actions on microRNAs, epigenetic changes and phosphatases to modulate immune cells involved in the control of microbial infection in these different contexts. Our lab employs state of the art techniques to understand in vitro and in vivo cellular and microbial dynamics, such as intravital microscopy and IVIS imaging, along with different fluorescent and cell-specific deficient mice to track cell and organ-specific events.