Autoimmune diseases like antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) occur when the immune system attacks the body’s own cells. One aspect of this autoimmunity is that APS patients develop “sticky” blood, making them highly susceptible to blood clots such as strokes (blood clots in the brain) and pulmonary emboli (blood clots in the lungs). Our laboratories study why APS arises in certain individuals and what we can do reverse it.

Our team’s main research focus is exploring the role that neutrophils (the most abundant white blood cells in circulation within the body) play in patients with APS. Our labs have discovered that neutrophils function abnormally in patients with APS. In healthy individuals, neutrophils protect the body by identifying and eradicating infections. In patients with APS, neutrophils “go haywire” and release sticky, clot-provoking webs of DNA and proteins called neutrophil extracellular traps, also known as NETs, that can trigger the blood to clot in patients with APS.

Our labs are home to one of the largest biorepository of APS patient samples in the country. We use cutting-edge technology to study these samples, which includes an advanced imaging system that allows us to capture highly magnified images of neutrophils and study how these cells change in real time.

We are investigating APS from many other angles including studying the mechanisms of blood vessel injury; researching better blood markers of disease activity; and investigating the role of the immune system and inflammatory cells as mediators of tissue injury.

Research Areas

  • Clinical and translational research of antiphospholipid syndrome (APS)
  • Role of neutrophils and autoantibodies in COVID-19
  • Crosstalk between the immune system and thrombosis (i.e., thrombo-inflammation)
  • Role of neutrophils and neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) in lupus
  • Extracellular purines as regulators of inflammation
  • Endoplasmic reticulum stress responses of neutrophils
  • Role of neutrophils and NETs in diabetic cardiovascular disease

Our multidisciplinary research includes collaborators in Biomedical Engineering, Cardiovascular Medicine, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, and Vascular Surgery, all working together to develop precision therapeutics that will neutralize NETs. Through this collaborative effort, our group is applying models and techniques that are entirely unique within the field of autoimmunity.

What I'm Reading in APS Research

What I’m Reading in APS Research, written by Ajay Tambralli, MD, is designed to provide relevant information about some of the latest research in APS and to help people better understand the research behind the publications.

October 2022

Targeting the Interaction Between Neutrophils and Endothelial Cells May Be a Future Therapy for APS

Dr. Tambralli discusses an article published by our APS Program in 2017 and a recent publication in 2022 that provided new insights and updates to our work from 2017. 

April 2023

Using CAR T Cell Therapy for Rheumatic Diseases

Dr. Tambralli discusses three publications focusing on CAR T cells.