E-Cigarette Vapor Boosts Superbugs and Dampens Immune System

In lab and mouse experiments, exposure promotes bacterial virulence and inflammation, while blocking the body’s ability to fight infection —

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System report data suggesting that e-cigarettes are toxic to human airway cells, suppress immune defenses and alter inflammation, while at the same time boosting bacterial virulence. The mouse study is published January 25 by the Journal of Molecular Medicine.

“This study shows that e-cigarette vapor is not benign — at high doses it can directly kill lung cells, which is frightening,” said senior author Laura E. Crotty Alexander, MD, … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Laura E. Crotty Alexander, MD

Laura E. Crotty Alexander, MD

Senior author Laura E. Crotty Alexander, MD, is Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine in the Department of Medicine and staff physician at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System.

The article reporting the findings was published first online on January 25, 2016.  Article abstract  |  Full text of article (UC San Diego Only)

More Anti-inflammatory Genes Mean Longer Lifespans for Mammals

Mammal species with higher copy numbers of siglec receptor genes have longer maximum lifespans —

We age in part thanks to “friendly fire” from the immune system — inflammation and chemically active molecules called reactive oxygen species that help fight infection, but also wreak molecular havoc over time, contributing to frailty, disability and disease. The CD33rSiglec family of proteins are known to help protect our cells from becoming inflammatory collateral damage, prompting researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine to ask whether CD33rSiglecs might help mammals live longer, too. …Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom

Cigarette Smoke Makes Superbugs More Aggressive

In lab and mouse experiments, cigarette smoke helps drug-resistant bacteria fight off the immune system —

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), an antibiotic-resistant superbug, can cause life-threatening skin, bloodstream and surgical site infections or pneumonia. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine now report that cigarette smoke may make matters worse. The study, published March 30 by Infection and Immunity, shows that MRSA bacteria exposed to cigarette smoke become even more resistant to killing by the immune system. …Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Laura E. Crotty Alexander, MDPulmonologist Laura E. Crotty Alexander, MD, is senior author of the study report. She is a Health Sciences assistant clinical professor in the Department of Medicine at UC San Diego and a staff physician at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System.

Read the study abstract with link to PDF in Infection and Immunity (UCSD only)

Fat Isn’t All Bad: Skin Adipocytes Help Protect Against Infections

When it comes to skin infections, a healthy and robust immune response may depend greatly upon what lies beneath. In a new paper published in the January 2, 2015 issue of Science, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report the surprising discovery that fat cells below the skin help protect us from bacteria.

Richard Gallo, MD, PhD, professor and chief of dermatology at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and colleagues have uncovered a previously unknown role for dermal fat cells, known as adipocytes: They produce antimicrobial peptides that help fend off invading bacteria and other pathogens. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Dr. Richard Gallo

Dr. Richard Gallo

Richard Gallo, MD, PhD, is professor of medicine and pediatrics and chief of the Division of Dermatology.

Read Science article abstract on PubMed

Visit Dr. Gallo’s laboratory website

Cancer and the Immune System: A Double-Edged Sword

Cell surface sugars can promote or inhibit cancer depending upon stage

During cancer development, tumor cells decorate their surfaces with sugar compounds called glycans that are different from those found on normal, healthy cells. In the Sept. 15 online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report that sialic acids at the tips of these cancer cell glycans are capable of engaging with immune system cells and changing the latter’s response to the tumor – for good and bad. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Ajit Varki, MDPrincipal investigator of the study is Ajit Varki, MD, distinguished professor of medicine and cellular medicine, member of the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center and co-director of both the Glycobiology Research and Training Center and UCSD/Salk Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA).

Cancer Cells Co-opt Immune Response to Escape Destruction

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report that tumor cells use stress signals to subvert responding immune cells, exploiting them to actually boost conditions beneficial to cancer growth. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


Dr. Maurizio ZanettiThe report comes from the laboratory of Dr. Maurizio Zanetti (left), with graduate student Navin R. Mahadevan as lead author and Dr. Zanetti as senior author.

Maurizio Zanetti, MD, is emeritus professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology-Oncology and director of the Laboratory of Immunology at the UCSD Moores Cancer Center.

Dr. Zanetti is the director of tumor immunology for the UCSD Center for Immunology, Infection and Inflammation.  He directs the immunology course in the Biomedical Sciences graduate program.

Drs. Zanetti and Mahadevan published a Science Magazine Perspectives article on the connection between immune surveillance and chromosomal chaos in September.

On the PLOS ONE report, coauthors from Dr. Zanetti’s laboratory are undergraduate student Veronika Anufreichik, graduate student Jeffrey J. Rodvold and research associate Kevin T. Chiu.

Read the report in PLOS ONE

Citation for the report:  Mahadevan NR, Anufreichik V, Rodvold JJ, Chiu KT, Sepulveda H, et al. (2012) Cell-Extrinsic Effects of Tumor ER Stress Imprint Myeloid Dendritic Cells and Impair CD8+ T Cell Priming. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51845. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051845

More Information:

  • Science Magazine Perspectives article, September 2012:

Zanetti M, Mahadevan NR. Immune Surveillance from Chromosomal Chaos? Science 337 (6102): 1616-1617, 28 September 2012. DOI: 10.1126/science.1228464.

  • Other UCSD news stories about Dr. Zanetti’s work:
  • Related Links:

Study Finds Potential New Drug Therapy for Crohn’s Disease

Ustekinumab Induces, Sustains Clinical Response in Patients

Ustekinumab, an antibody proven to treat the skin condition psoriasis, has now shown positive results in decreasing the debilitating effects of Crohn’s Disease, according to researchers at the University of California San Diego, School of Medicine. The study will appear in the October 18, 2012 issue of the New England Journal of MedicineRead the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


Dr. William J. SandbornThe principal investigator of the study is Dr. William J. Sandborn, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Gastroenterology at UCSD.  |  Read his academic profile  |  Read his clinical profile

Read the report of the study in the New England Journal of Medicine (full text UCSD only)

Citation of study report:  Sandborn WJ, Gasink C, Gao L-L, Blank MA, Johanns J, Guzzo C, Sands BE, Hanauer SB, Targan S, Rutgeerts P,  Ghosh S, de Villiers WJS, Panaccione R, Greenberg G, Schreiber S, Lichtiger S, Feagan BG for the CERTIFI Study Group. N Engl J Med 2012; 367:1519-1528 October 18, 2012 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1203572

Study Identifies Potential New Class of Drug for Treating Ulcerative Colitis

Oral Drug Shows Clinical Response and Remission in Some Patients

An investigational drug currently under FDA review for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis has now shown positive results in patients with moderate-to-severe ulcerative colitis, according to researchers at the University of California San Diego, School of Medicine. The study will appear in the August 16, 2012 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


Dr. William J. SandbornThe principal investigator of the study is Dr. William J. Sandborn, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Gastroenterology at UCSD.  |  Read his academic profile  |  Read his clinical profile

Read the abstract of the study report in the New England Journal of Medicine

Citation of study report:  Sandborn WJ, Ghosh S, Panes J, Vranic I, Su C, Rousell S, Niezychowski W; Study A3921063 Investigators. Tofacitinib, an oral Janus kinase inhibitor, in active ulcerative colitis. N Engl J Med. 2012 Aug 16;367(7):616-24.

How Infectious Disease May Have Shaped Human Origins

Inactivation of two genes may have allowed escape from bacterial pathogens, researchers say

Roughly 100,000 years ago, human evolution reached a mysterious bottleneck: Our ancestors had been reduced to perhaps five to ten thousand individuals living in Africa. In time, “behaviorally modern” humans would emerge from this population, expanding dramatically in both number and range, and replacing all other co-existing evolutionary cousins, such as the Neanderthals. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

2 UC San Diego Scientists Receive Prestigious New Innovator Awards from NIH

Two scientists at the University of California, San Diego have been awarded New Innovator Awards from the National Institutes of Health for research projects “that challenge the status quo with innovative ideas that have the potential to propel fields forward and speed the translation of research into improved health for the American public.” … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


Dr. John ChangDr. John Chang is one of the two awardees. John T. Chang, MD, is assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology and a faculty member in the UC San Diego Biomedical Sciences PhD program.

Visit Dr. Chang’s laboratory website