Scientific discovery is in our DNA
Many of our patients have orphan or neglected diseases, and we are committed to blurring the lines between clinical research to improve care and laboratory research to better understand the origins of these illnesses.
Our research laboratories seek to understand the interaction between the immune system and the central nervous system in different types of encephalitis and meningitis. These efforts include a unique autoantibody discovery pipeline that leverages multiple techniques, including phage display, immunohistochemistry and cell-based assays.
Building on our work developing metagenomic sequencing to detect DNA and RNA from a huge range of neurologic infections, we are continuing to improve infectious disease diagnostics with antibody detection methods and learning from the unique immune responses that our bodies have against different types of pathogens. We are also working to make these advanced diagnostic techniques available in resource poor environments through collaborations in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.
Collaborative research between the Pleasure and Wilson labs is developing novel models to understand the pathophysiology of antibody associated autoimmune encephalitis. The initial efforts are focused on the circuit effects of anti-NMDAR antibodies, and will pursue similar studies in other antibody associated syndromes.
We are engaged in many studies to develop new therapies for complex infectious or autoimmune causes of encephalitis or meningitis. One ongoing example is our work on progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), a devastating condition caused by the JC polyomavirus affecting immunocompromised patients. The best treatment involves early diagnosis and restoration of immune function, especially T cells.
Unfortunately, this disease is often fatal in patients for whom immune function cannot be restored. We recently embarked on a new effort funded by the Weill Neurohub in collaboration with the Gladstone-UCSF Institute of Genomic Immunology, the Innovative Genomics Institute, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to create and test designer T cells that can effectively and specifically treat PML. We hope that this treatment strategy will also prove useful for other severe neuroviral infections and also provide targeted treatment for autoimmune encephalitis.
Below are instructions for handling of and sending research and clinical samples. Please note: we are not able to accept samples for clinical or research testing without referral from a physician.
If you are a physician interested in sending a patient’s sample to the Center for research purposes, please send a short case summary to firstname.lastname@example.org for our team to review.
We generally request 2-3 cc of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from a clinically-indicated lumbar puncture, frozen at -70c as soon as possible after collection.
The UCSF Clinical Microbiology Lab, run by Dr. Charles Chiu, offers metagenomic next generation sequencing (mNGS) for pathogen detection as a clinical test available for cerebrospinal fluid from patients with undiagnosed meningitis and/or encephalitis of unknown etiology. CSF Specimen requirements for mNGS are a minimum of 1ml, frozen at -70c within 5 days of collection.
Visit the UCSF Center for Next-Gen Precision Diagnostics website for more information on how to send a sample for clinical mNGS.