Alexander Panda MD, PhD, MPH
Instructor in Medicine (Pulmonary)
Dr. Panda’s research focuses on defects of the innate immunity arm in older adults. Aging is associated with a progressive decline in immune function (immunosenescence) resulting in increased susceptibility to viral and bacterial infections and decreased response to vaccines. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are pattern recognition receptors that recognize conserved molecular patterns on microbes and are key to triggering antimicrobial host defense responses. Deficiencies in human TLR signaling lead to increased severity of several diseases, including sepsis, immunodeficiencies, atherosclerosis and asthma. Dendritic cells (DCs) are the major antigen presenting cells responsible for initiating an immune response. However, DC functions in aging have not been studied in detail. Dr. Panda recently demonstrated a generalized defect in TLR function in DCs from older individuals. As a Beeson Fellow he will study the mechanism of decreased TLR function in dendritic cells of older adults. His preliminary studies indicate a potential role of the chaperone Protein Associated with Toll-like receptor 4 (PRAT4A) in mediating the age-associated defects observed in TLR expression. He will study the effect of age on the expression of PRAT4A in dendritic cells in a large cohort of young (20-30 years) and older (= 65 years) adults. He hypothesizes that the expression of PRAT4A is decreased with aging and therefore is a potential target for therapeutic intervention. In addition he will study underlying mechanisms of diminished PRAT4A and TLR1 expression in older adults. The proposed studies will be accomplished using multicolor flow cytometry, confocal microscopy, gene expression and transfection studies.
Ultimately, he hopes that his work will help explain the deterioration of immunity seen in older adults, and aid in the rational development of novel treatments and vaccines geared specifically towards older adults. “My research will benefit almost two million older adults hospitalized with an infectious disease each year in the United States.”
Dr. Panda has a track record in geriatric medicine and research. He attended medical school at the Alexander von Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany and earned a Masters in Public Health from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. He has persistently shown leadership qualities in the field of aging, starting with his training in geriatric medicine, early research on health care policies for the elderly and more recently in the basic science arena dedicated to vaccine research for the elderly. He is trained and board certified in Infectious Diseases and has recently earned a Ph.D. in the Investigative Medicine Program at Yale University School of Medicine.
Education & Training
- Kreuzchule (1987)
- Charite School of Medicine/Berlin/Germany (1998)
- Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health (2001)
- Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (2012)