2022 Jenike Young Investigator Award

Elucidating the role of RXRɑ factor in myeloid cells for immune-mediated mechanisms of OCD

Uğur Akcan, PhD

Columbia University (New York, NY)

Award Amount: $50,000 (in partnership with PANDAS Network)

PANDAS may be associated with a form of basal ganglia encephalitis (BGE) caused by repetitive Group A Streptococcus (GAS) infections. Findings show that the immune response targeting repetitive GAS infections can lead to inflammation of the brain and nervous system. As not every child develops BGE, there may be a genetic component related to the development of PANDAS. This team has identified approximately 20 genes associated with BGE, one of which is Retinoid X Receptor Alpha (RXRɑ) – responsible for regulating innate and adaptive immune responses. Using imaging techniques on mice and humans, this study aims to assess the importance of RXRɑ for regulating the immune response of myeloid cells that can affect the nervous system following repetitive GAS infections. Additionally, it proposes to test the effects of RXRɑ loss in mouse myeloid cells to understand effects on the nervous system after these infections. These explorations may aid in developing potential biomarkers and therapeutics to assist in diagnostic and treatment strategies for PANDAS.