Lalita Ramakrishnan, MD, PhD
Professor of Microbiology and Medicine, Adjunct Professor of Immunology
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Dr. Ramakrishnan’s research focuses on the pathogenesis of tuberculosis and the host and pathogen contributions to it. Her laboratory has developed Mycobacterium marinum, the agent of fish tuberculosis, as a surrogate for human tuberculosis. They have developed the zebrafish as a model host for M. marinum to exploit its optical transparency and genetic tractability to monitor the infection process in real-time. Her laboratory is focused on understanding the basis of host susceptibility to tuberculosis. Findings from this model have led them to new host susceptibility determinants and pathways in human tuberculosis and leprosy. Their studies have revealed the mechanism of protection of key resistance determinants like tumor necrosis factor. They have identified that the balance of pro and anti inflammatory eicosanoids controls susceptibility to tuberculosis. They have discovered that the tuberculous granuloma, long thought to be a host protective structure, is actually induced by the bacteria for their expansion and dissemination. They are investigating the mechanistic basis of their new discoveries with the hope that this detailed understanding will lead them to completely new approaches for the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis, as well as other inflammatory conditions. She collaborates with Drs. Sherman, Urdahl, and Hawn.