Clinical Research Spotlight - Michelle Kahlenberg

J. Michelle Kahlenberg, MD
Michelle Kahlenberg, MD

Michelle Kahlenberg, MD, PhD is an Assistant Professor for the Division of Rheumatology in the Department of Internal Medicine. Dr. Kahlenberg's research works to understand what "flips the switch" to turn on disease flares in patients with systemic and cutaneous lupus. Her team has identified specific interferon (interferon kappa) pathways that are overactive in lupus skin and contribute to a predisposition for inflammation after exposure to UV light.

Dr. Kahlenberg runs a research lab - currently with one student, one post-doc, two technicians, two undergrads, a research fellow, and a medical student. She plans experiments and directions for their work, helps trouble-shoot experiments, writes papers and grants, runs all lab public relations, creates figures, deals with all human resource issues, creates and implements budgets, participates in mentorship meetings, and implements all regulatory paperwork. Dr. Kahlenberg also sees patients one day a week.

When asked why she is interested in this area of research, Dr. Kahlenberg stated, "Lupus is a fascinating yet devastating disease without very effective therapies. In addition, it is unknown why patients can have "stable autoimmunity" without any organ involvement and suddenly develop severe flares of disease activity which result in organ dysfunction and damage. We are interested in targeting the triggers of disease flares in order to prevent these flares from occurring. Further, these flare triggers may also serve as novel targets for treatment as well".  

Dr. Kahlenberg hopes to develop more effective, less toxic treatments for patients with lupus. Ideally, new therapies which will prevent the disease from flaring in the first place which will stop damage from occurring in the future.

Dr. Kahlenberg and her husband have two children, 11 and 8, which keep her extremely busy. In her spare time, she enjoys doing yoga and she helps her husband run their organic, grass-fed meat farm. Dr. Kahlenberg is in charge of vegetable production during the summer. 

Lastly, when asked what wish she would hope for, Dr. Kahlenberg stated, "world peace".