Sheila N. Bello-Irizarry


  • 2009 - Outstanding Graduate Student Poster Award 1st University of Rochester
    Developmental Center for AIDS Research (D-CFAR) - World AIDS Day Symposium (December 2009)


Photo of Sheila Bello-IrizarrySheila N. Bello-Irizarry received her Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Biotechnology from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus. As an undergraduate she had the opportunity to explore biomedical research in the areas of Chemistry and Immunology at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus, and University of California at Berkeley, respectively. In 2002, she completed an internship at the Johnson & Johnson Company in Janssen Ortho LLC, Gurabo, PR, where she received a Silver Award: “PSGA Supply Chain Excellence Award”. In February, 2004, she participated in the Intramural NIAID Research Opportunities (INRO) program at the NIAID in Bethesda, MD, and in August 2004 she received a Post-Baccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)/ National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). She joined the Malaria Vaccine Development Branch (MVDB), directed by Dr. Louis Miller and Dr. Allan Saul, working on a project entitled: “Development and characterization of Pxs25 conjugates as Transmission Blocking Malaria Vaccine Candidates”. In 2006 she began her graduate studies at the University of Rochester, School of Medicine and Dentistry, in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, where she earned her Master in Science degree in 2009. Sheila has presented abstracts locally and at several national and international conferences, such as the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) and Keystone where she received a Keystone Symposia Scholarship to attend the Molecular and Cellular Biology- Pattern Recognition Molecules and Immune Sensors of Pathogens in 2009. Sheila has served as Secretary for the Graduate Student Society and is currently a member of the Outreach/Planning Team for the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Community Advisory Board for AIDS Clinical trials, HIV Vaccine Research Trials, and the Pediatric HIV Program.

Research Description

Sheila is working in the characterization of host signaling pathways involved in the immune response to the fungal respiratory pathogen Pneumocystis. Pneumocystis carinii (Pc) is an opportunistic fungal pathogen that takes advantage of immunocompromised hosts causing life-threatening pneumonia. Even in the post-HAART era, Pneumocystis pneumonia (PcP) remains the most common AIDS-defining illness, and is a significant cause of AIDS-related mortality. Importantly, severity of PcP is directly related to the degree of inflammation in the lung, and not to organism burden. Determining the mechanisms by which Pc induces pulmonary inflammation may provide appropriate therapeutic targets to decrease the severity of PcP. Pc interacts closely with alveolar epithelial cells (AECs), and a role for AECs as immunomodulatory cells has recently been suggested. AECs respond to Pc by secreting chemokines such as MCP-1 and MIP-2 that recruits T cells, alveolar macrophages and neutrophils to sites of infection causing the characteristic inflammation and lung injury. However, neither the initial interaction between Pc and AEC nor the in vivo role of the AEC inflammatory response is known. We hypothesize that the toll-like receptor (TLR-IL-1R)/MyD88 signaling pathway is involved in the AEC chemokine response to Pc, and that this interaction induces the cascade leading to immune injury during PcP. In vitro and in vivo experiments have shown some components from the MyD88 family specifically from alveolar epithelial cells to be involved in the early response to Pc and pathology of the disease. Understanding the specific mechanisms of lung injury during PcP will lead us to target immunotherapy more efficiently in the lung.

Articles Published

  1. Yimin Wu, Craig Przysiecki , Elizabeth Flanagan, Sheila N. Bello-Irizarry, Roxana Ionescu, Olga Muratova, Gelu Dobrescu, Lynn Lambert, David Keister, Carole Long, Li Shi, Michael Caulfield, Alan Shaw, Allan Saul, John Shiver, Louis Miller. “Sustained High Antibody Responses Induced by Conjugation of a Poor Protein Immunogen to OMPC for Commercial Vaccine Development” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Nov 28;103(48):18243-8
  2. Bello-Irizarry, Sheila N.; Wang, Jing; Olsen, Keith; Gigliotti, Francis; Wright, Terry W. “MyD88 and IL-1R, but not TLR2 or TLR4 are Required for the Alveolar Epithelial Cell-Mediated Inflammatory Response to Pneumocystis carinii.” Manuscript in preparation
  3. Bello-Irizarry, Sheila N.; Gigliotti, Francis; Wright, Terry W. “MyD88 in the parenchyma contributes to inflammation and disease outcoume during Pneumocystis infection in mice.” Manuscript in preparation

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