Research

The Hafler Laboratory focuses on understanding the fundamental immunology and the pathogenesis of human autoimmune disease.

Specifically our research goals are as follows:

  • Characterization of regulatory T cells and their role in autoimmune disease
  • Identification of B cell antigens relevant to multiple sclerosis
  • Characterization of TCR signaling cascades
  • Characterization of the role of co-stimulatory molecules in autoimmune disease

Dr. Hafler’s laboratory has been a major force in defining human autoimmune disease for over a quarter of a century. After demonstrating the presence of an activated peripheral immune system in patients with MS, he was among the first to apply human T cell cloning to human disease, which helped delineate the dominant epitopes of myelin antigens in MS (Nature, 1990) and of islet antigens in diabetes (Nature 2005). His lab has closely examined the mechanism for the loss of suppression, and was among the first to describe the regulatory T cells in humans (JI, 2005) and the molecular defects in regulating tolerance in autoimmune disease (JEM, 2006; Science 2007). His lab has also focused on the mechanism for induction of Th17 cells in humans (Nature 2008). He continues to be active as a clinician, and has led a number of clinical trials, including the first therapy of human autoimmune disease with monoclonal antibodies in the 1980s. During a sabbatical with Eric Lander at the Broad Institute, Dr. Hafler led the first whole genome scan identifying gene variants associated with MS (NEJM, 2007). Dr. Hafler is also Founder and past president of the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies and an NIH Jacob Javits Scholar.

Currently, Dr. Hafler serves as the Gilbert H. Glaser Professor and Chairman Department of Neurology, Yale School of Medicine and is the Neurologist-in-Chief of the Yale-New Haven Hospital.