Dana Ascherman, MD
Campus: 200 Lothrop St
Office: S723 Biomedical Science Tower South
Pittsburgh, PA 15261
- AB, Harvard University, 1987
- MD, Stanford University School of Medicine, 1992
- Professor, Medicine
- Professor, Immunology
Viewed broadly, Dr. Ascherman’s research has investigated the role of cell-mediated immunity in the pathogenesis of idiopathic inflammatory myopathy, a systemic autoimmune disorder resulting in damage to muscle as well as extra-muscular tissues that include skin, joints, lung, and the vascular system. While this effort initially focused on human cells and tissue, the relative rarity of this disorder led Dr. Ascherman to develop a novel antigen-induced model replicating several cardinal features of this disease—namely, myositis and interstitial lung disease. Beyond support for the role of histidyl-tRNA synthetase (HRS=Jo-1) in human disease, this work has generated some intriguing observations regarding the ability of peptides to generate species-specific antibody responses--fueling a computational biology collaboration exploring the contribution of peptide stability to antigenicity, immunogenicity, and affinity maturation. Complementing these studies, more recent work has centered on the interaction between HRS and signaling components of the innate immune system that not only support the development of class-switched autoantibody responses, but also promote a robust myositis phenotype. Dissecting the relationship between HRS-induced innate immune activation, NF-?B-mediated transcriptional pathways, and subsequent transition to antigen driven adaptive immune responses therefore represents a major focus of ongoing work. Additional areas of investigation include biomarker development in autoimmune interstitial lung disease. Collectively, these efforts underscore an expanding basic and translational research program uniting themes of autoimmune disease mechanisms and structural immunology.
Dr. Ascherman’s clinical interests encompass a spectrum of autoimmune disorders, with a primary focus on inflammatory myopathies and associated systemic complications that include interstitial lung disease (ILD). Based on the frequent overlap between various autoimmune disorders and ILD, Dr. Ascherman has worked with Dr. Daniel Kass in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine to initiate an interdisciplinary Autoimmune ILD Clinic.
Over the last 20 years, Dr. Ascherman has dedicated considerable effort to teaching medical students, residents, and clinical fellows in clinical as well as classroom settings. These activities have included medical school course directorships, with lectures spanning a range of topics from crystalline arthropathies to the immunologic basis of systemic autoimmune diseases. In response to a more general call for translation of basic immunology to clinical medicine, Dr. Ascherman has devised and directed a literature-based, “applied immunology” tutorial geared towards residents and clinical fellow in rheumatology.