Sharma to chair session with talk from member of her group at annual AAI meeting

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School of Medicine & Health Sciences


Jyotika Sharma, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, has been invited to chair a block symposium tentatively titled “Innate Immune Signaling” at the worldwide gathering of immunologists: Immunology 2017, the annual meeting of the American Association of Immunologists (AAI), in Washington D.C., May 12–16. The AAI is one of the oldest (founded in 1913) and most prestigious scientific societies of immunologists with 25 Nobel Laureates as past or present members. Sharma has been a member since 2005. The association has recognized the work done in her lab with several awards, including a fellowship to her graduate student Christopher Jondle for his studies on C-type lectin receptor MGL-1.

This is the second consecutive year that the AAI has invited her to chair one of the sessions at its annual meeting along with an oral presentation from one of her lab members. Atul Sharma (who is not related), PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Sharma, has been selected to give an oral presentation at this meeting. He received his Master of Technology in Biotechnology from Rajiv Gandhi Technical University in Bhopal, India. He earned his PhD in Molecular Medicine from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India, before joining Sharma’s lab as a postdoctoral fellow to work on the mechanism of Mincle-mediated neutrophil extracellular trap (NET) formation in pneumonia and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), one of the many projects in her lab.

Atul Sharma’s presentation is titled, “Mincle regulates autophagy to control neutrophil extracellular trap formation.” It stems from a paper by Sharma’s group, with Atul as the first author. The paper recently was accepted for publication in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, which is among the top five journals publishing research on infectious disease. This paper will soon be available online at the journal’s Advance Access. Their study describes, for the first time, how a host protein called Mincle modulates a specific function of neutrophils, that is, the formation of NETs. Neutrophils make NETs to trap and kill infectious agents. Conversely, too much NET formation can cause excessive inflammation, which is now recognized as a cause of many autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and even Alzheimer’s.

“Our study of Mincle and its downstream signaling in regulation of NET formation provides a unique opportunity to harness the beneficial function of NETs—effective antimicrobial resistance—while minimizing excessive tissue damage, a goal that has been elusive so far,” said Jyotika Sharma.

They believe that their study opens up novel therapeutic options in a wide spectrum of inflammatory diseases, where too little or too much NET formation is the cause of disease development.

Jyotika Sharma’s research focuses on host-pathogen interaction and regulation of inflammation in acute and chronic inflammatory diseases including pneumonia, sepsis, and COPD, she is internationally recognized for her research on sepsis, a life-threatening medical condition that results from a systemic inflammatory response by the body to fend off a severe infection or to recover from a traumatic injury. There are currently no therapies for this condition. Since joining UND in 2011, her work on this area of research has been continuously funded by grants from the American Heart Association and by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the largest biomedical research agency in the world.

In November 2015, the NIH granted $1.7 million to Sharma to examine neutrophils, which are the first responders for combatting bacterial infections like pneumonia. The five-year R01 grant is the highest level of research supported by the NIH. She is also a Project Leader 1 for the $10.7 million COBRE award to the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences from the NIH to research host-pathogen interactions.


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