Meet the members of the IRT group.

The IRT group is composed by a multi-disciplinary team, including Principal Investigators, students at different stages of training, and collaboration personnel.

Principal Investigators

Juan Carlos Aguillón, Ph.D.

Full Professor at Universidad de Chile. He has contributed to elucidate the participation of cytokine genetic polymorphisms on the susceptibility to autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, and to demonstrate the effect of these polymorphisms on the clinical outcome in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients receiving biological therapies. During the last seven years, he has been studying the role of tolerogenic dendritic cells (tolDCs) to modulate collagen-induced murine arthritis and defining the immunological mechanisms associated. Currently, he is working in transferring the experience gained in experimental models to deal with the modulation of DCs from RA patients. In addition, he is working at elucidating the immunological mechanisms responsible for the beneficial clinical response observed in RA patients after receiving cytokine-blocking therapies. His work has led to 45 papers in peer-reviewed journals, while he has participated as Principal Investigator in 19 research projects. Additionally, he has been President of the Chilean Society for Immunology and currently heads the Disciplinary Program of Immunology at Universidad de Chile.

Phone: +56 2 2978 6347

Diego Catalán, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor at Universidad de Chile. His has contributed to the characterization of new self-antigens involved in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and to define the role of B lymphocytes and auto-antibodies to the development of this disease. Dr. Catalán is heading a new research project, in collaboration with Dr. Dolores Jaraquemada and Dr. Iñaki Álvarez from the Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, in the area of identification of immunodominant epitopes that are responsible for the autoimmune response in RA, with the purpose to apply this knowledge to the design of new therapeutic strategies based on the restoration of tolerance. He is also participating in research projects intended to identify biomarkers that help to predict the response of RA patients to biological therapies. Finally, he is studying the biology of human regulatory B cells, evaluating which are the receptors involved on their activation and inhibition, as well as the signaling pathways and transcription factors that control their functions, both in health and in autoimmune or inflammatory conditions. His work has been published in important journals in the area, and he is currently leading two research projects.

Phone: +56 2 2978 6882 Karina Pino

Karina Pino Lagos, Ph.D.

Research Associate. After graduating from Dartmouth College (NH, USA) in 2011, Karina returned to Chile and joined the IRT group to continue her academic and scientific career. Her previous work focused in the study of immune tolerance using a murine model of skin transplantation, and during the last 7 years she has contributed to the understanding of both, the generation and maintenance of tolerance, including the identification of new cellular and molecular mediators. Currently, Dr. Pino is leading a project in which she will evaluate key cellular players described in the induction of tolerance, such as dendritic cells and regulatory T cells (Tregs), utilizing in vivo models of arthritis and skin transplantation. Also, she has recently obtained a FONDECYT grant to study the role of IL-33, a newly identified cytokine, and Retinoic acid. In this project, her interest is targeted to describe a possible interaction between these two mediators by acting on Antigen presenting cells, as Dendritic cells and other, and the outcome on CD4+ T cell polarization. As mentioned before, the observations will be translated to the physiologically relevant in vivo model of skin transplantation.

Phone: +56 2 2978 9503 Recent Publications [+] Lilian Soto

Lilian Soto Sáez, M.D.

Lilian Soto is Assistant Professor at the Medicine Faculty, Universidad de Chile, Physician and Rheumatologist . She has a large experience in clinical research trials as in translational studies in Rheumatoid Arthritis. Recently, she got a Fondecyt grant for a study intended to determinate the role of B cells in the inmunopathogenesis of Systemic sclerosis.

Phone: +56 2 2978 8236

Graduate Students

Bárbara Pesce

Bárbara Pesce

Ph.D. student at Universidad de Chile.

Her doctoral thesis is aimed at studying the effects of new biological therapies for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. Specifically, her research focuses in how antibodies directed against pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as TNF and IL-6, impact on Th1, Th17 and Treg populations. For this purpose she is characterizing T cell subsets on RA patients receiving anti-IL-6R therapeutic antibodies. In addition, she is also studying the response of in vitro cultured Th1 and Th17 cells to pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Phone: +56 2 2978 6114 Octavio Aravena

Octavio Aravena

Ph.D. student at Universidad Andrés Bello.

His doctoral thesis is aimed at studying the involvement of the key molecule TIM-1 in human regulatory B cells induction and activation, and in the ability of these cells to generate a state of immunological tolerance by the interaction with TIM-4 expressed in antigen presenting cells. In addition, he is characterizing protocols for in vitro regulatory B cells induction, with a view to develop future cell therapies with regulatory B cells for autoimmune diseases or to prevent transplant rejection. Finally, he is studying the function of TIM-1+ regulatory B cells in patients with systemic sclerosis.

Phone: +56 2 2978 6114 Asunción Beltrán

María Asunción Beltrán

M.Sc. student at Universidad de Chile.

Her thesis is oriented to identify peptides processed and presented by antigen-presenting cells in inflamed joints from rheumatoid arthritis patients. For this objective, she will isolate HLA-DR molecules from RA patients’ sinovial tissue and analyze the peptides bound to them through mass spectrometry. Finally, she will classify the most immunodominant peptides according to their ability to elicit T-cell responses in RA patients.

Phone: +56 2 2978 6114 Jorge Berendsen

Jorge Berendsen

M.Sc. student at Universidad de Chile.

His thesis is focused in the role of inhibitory sialic-acid receptors Siglec 2 and Siglec10, on the IL-10 secretion by human regulatory B cells.

Phone: +56 2 2978 6114 Elianet Fonseca

Elianet Fonseca

M.Sc. student at Universidad de Chile.

Her thesis is intended to study the mechanisms involved in the regulation of B cell phenotype and cytokine secretion profile by the FcgammaRIIb inhibitory receptor, with special emphasis in the regulatory B cell population, and to evaluate the presence of alterations in this receptor on systemic sclerosis patients.

Phone: +56 2 2978 6114 Paulina Vega

Paulina Vega

M.Sc. student at Universidad de Chile.

Her thesis is aimed at the study of the expression of TIM-1 receptor in different B cell populations, and its role on the secretion of IL-10 by B cells obtained from healthy donors and systemic sclerosis patients.

Phone: +56 2 2978 6114

Undergraduate Students

Javier Campos

Javier Campos Acuña

Molecular Biotechnology Engineer student at Universidad de Chile.

His thesis is focused on the screening of autoantigens in synovial fluid of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and their capability to stimulate auto-reactive T lymphocytes from patients with the disease, through co-cultures with mature (matDCs) or tolerogenic dendritic cells (tolDCs) pulsed with these proteins, in order to induce antigen-specific tolerance.

Phone: +56 2 2978 6114 Jaxaira Maggi

Jaxaira Maggi

Molecular Biotechnology Engineer student at Universidad de Chile.

Her thesis is focused on evaluating the capacity of human tolerogenic dendritic cells (tolDCs), generated ex-vivo by using dexamethasone and monophosphoril lipid A (MPLA), to modulate antigen-specific memory T lymphocyte responses and retraining of naïve T cells in a pro-tolerogenic direction in order to contribute with therapeutic tools for autoimmune diseases treatment.

Phone: +56 2 2978 6114 Carolina Schäfer

Carolina Schäfer

Biochemistry student at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaiso.

Her thesis is focused on the evaluation of the therapeutic action of dexamethasone- and monophosphoryl lipid A-modulated and collagen-pulsed tolerogenic dendritic cells in a mouse model of rheumatoid arthritis (Collagen-Induced Arthritis, CIA). Her work will be emphasized on the study of the associated immunological mechanisms and the role of regulatory T cells on the recovery of the disease model.

Phone: +56 2 2978 6114 Darío Vergara

Darío Vergara

Medical Technology student at Universidad de Chile.

His thesis is focused on the standardization of a protocol for the generation of bone marrow-derived tolerogenic dendritic cells (tolDCs) from DBA1/LacJ mice strain, using dexamethasone and monophosphoryl lipid A as immunomodulatory agents, and the subsequent characterization of this cells by phenotypic markers and cytokines secretion profile.

Phone: +56 2 2978 6114 Ashley Ferrier

Ashley Ferrier

Molecular Biotechnology Engineer student at Universidad de Chile.

His thesis is focused on the evaluation of the distribution and function of human B cells subpopulations in Systemic Sclerosis, with special emphasis in the transitional B cell sub-population, reported as containing most regulatory B cells (Bregs), with the final goal to understand the mechanisms involved in the loss of tolerance subjacent to this autoimmune disease.

Phone: +56 2 2978 6114

Professional Support

Verónica Ramos

Verónica Ramos

Biochemist, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso.

Her research activities are focused on the genetic screening of healthy individuals and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients with the purpose to study the association of  HLA-DRB1 alleles with the disease, in Chilean population. In addition, she performs the preparation of synovial tissues from RA patients for further microscopic and molecular analyses. Finally, she is cloning the enzyme human peptidyl arginine deiminase 4 (PAD4), responsible for protein citrullination, a posttranslational modification involved in RA pathogenesis.

Phone: +56 2 2978 9503 Pía Tobar

Pía Tobar

Biochemist, Universidad de Santiago de Chile.

Her research activity is focused on the generation of tolerogenic dendritic cells (tolDCs) from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) by using dexametasone and monophosphoryl lipid A (MPLA) and the study of their effect on healthy control T lymphocytes, in order to contribute towards a biologic therapy against RA. On the other hand, she studies the proliferation of CTLL-2 cells, a cytotoxic lymphocyte cellular line, in response to the cytokines secreted by a hybridoma co-cultured with dendritic cells from donors carrying the HLA-DRB*0101 haplotype.

Phone: +56 2 2978 9503 Edgar Narváez

Edgar Narváez

Biologist, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso.

His duties are focused in supporting each research line, specially the transplantation area. Edgar has a vast experience in cell culture techniques as well as manipulation of mice. Based on the latter, he is the great help in any study that includes immunizations and surgeries. Beside this, Edgar is also the responsible in developing the investigation project concerning the generation of murine tolerogenic Dendritic cells and their use to prolong allograft survival.

Phone: +56 2 2978 6114

Technical Support

Nancy Fabres

Mrs. Nancy Fabres

Administrative Support

Mrs. Oriana Córdova

Mrs. Inelia Butrón

Former Students

Paulina A. García

Biochemist at Universidad de Chile.

Lorena Hoyos

Biochemist at Universidad de Concepción.

Rodrigo Morales

Molecular Biotechnology Engineer at Universidad de Chile.

Support and Links

Conicyt Fondef D09I1190 Fondecyt Instituto de Ciencias Biomedicas Millennium Institute on Immunology and ImmunotherapyPubMed
Sociedad Chilena de reumatología