Office: Administration Building, Room 326D
Ph.D., Harvard Medical School; B.S. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The following are topics that will always catch Dr. Kurtz's attention: swimming, bike riding, running, face transplants, dogs, Vermont, the Upper Peninsula, microglia, dancing, camping, Dave Matthews Band, the Patriots, flow cytometry and IF miscroscopy, the Red Sox, time trial bikes, the microbiome, the newest iPhone, and those individuals who have 'grit'.
Since deciding upon a career in biological research, I have always been pulled towards those questions that are complex and cross many different traditional and historical boundaries. As a graduate student and postdoctoral fellow, although my training was as an immunologist, I found myself in the 'messy' fields of transplantation and autoimmunity, asking questions about the nature of tolerance, and how we might manipulate and re-educate the immune system to prevent the rejection of transplanted organs or reverse the state of autoimmunity. In these settings, I used a wide range of tools and techniques, ranging from traditional (PCR, MLR) and relatively new (RNA microarray analysis, confocal microscopy, multicolor (10+) flow cytometry and sorting) molecular and cellular approaches to constructing complex in vivo mouse models with various transgenic, knockout, and congenic strain combinations.
After joining Emmanuel College, Dr. Williams and I created the NeuroImmunology Research Group (NIRP), with the goal of taking each of our specific backgrounds and finding common, fertile ground in which to develop a truly interdisciplinary project to be driven by the undergraduates at the College. Over the past several years, the models and techniques we have developed have provided us not only the preliminary data for grant proposals, but has been presented at peer- reviewed national and international conferences.
In addition to the NIRP group, I hold the title of Clinical Instructor of Surgery (Immunology) at Harvard Medical School, and Assistant Immunologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital in the Transplantation Biology Research Center (TBRC), where I investigate the mechanisms of tolerance induction of vascularized composite allograft transplants (hand and face transplants) through hematopoietic stem cell transplantation using pre-clinical large animal models.
The impact that these projects on the participating undergraduate students has exceeded even my wildest expectations: over the past several years graduates of the NIRP/TBRC group have gained admission to some of the most competitive graduate programs, including Harvard Medical School, Tufts Dental School, Duke University, University College of London, and University of Massachusetts Medical School. The education that the students receive extends significantly beyond learning specific techniques or simple data analysis, as they are actively involved in all steps from literature review and generating hypotheses to experimental design to drawing valid conclusions.
What I Love About Emmanuel:
Emmanuel is a place where one can become the person they aspire to become.
Primary Research Articles:
Reviews, Chapters, and Editorials:
Immune function within the central nervous system (CNS) plays an important role regulating the health of the cellular constituents, and CNS immune dysfunction is implicated in many neurodegenerative and inflammatory diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. However, given their importance, the origin, recruitment, and effector mechanisms of those cells that regulate overall CNS immune function remain enigmatic. This project investigates the contribution and function of hematopoietically-derived progenitors to the central nervous system (CNS) population of microglia, the resident immune cells of the brain & spinal cord. We use a mouse hematopoietic chimerism model that utilizes green fluorescent protein expressing transgenic mice on the B6 background into wild type B6 recipients (GFPàB6; syngeneic) that allows for the identification and isolation of hematopoietically-derived macrophages within the CNS following bone marrow transplantation. Utilizing quantitative flow cytometry and qualitative histology/microscopy techniques, we investigate the molecular and cellular phenotypes (including pro-inflammatory markers and neurotransmitter receptor expression) of these cells compared to resident microglia. These detailed molecular, cellular, and anatomical characterizations and functional investigations will provide a strong foundation for future studies.
Hand or face transplantation offers patients with upper-extremity or craniofacial tissue loss unparalleled restoration of function and form. Unfortunately, the highly immunogenic nature of skin (regarded as one of the most robust tests of immune tolerance) requires these patients to remain on substantial immunosuppressive regimens to prevent rejection of these vascularized composite allografts (VCAs). Recently, we have developed a clinically-applicable protocol in a large animal model that allows for the indefinite survival of VCAs across a full MHC haplotype mismatch when transplanted concomitantly with hematopoietic stem cells from the VCA donor. In contrast to previous models, all components of the VCA skin (both dermis and epidermis) are accepted by the recipients with no evidence of either acute or chronic rejection, providing a unique model from which to elucidate the mechanisms involved in the establishment and maintenance of skin-specific tolerance through the establishment of mixed hematopoietic chimerism. Recent advances in the field of skin immunology have dramatically altered our understanding of the complexity and tissue-specific cell populations and processes required to balance the protective immune functions of the skin with remaining tolerance to all skin-specific self antigens. Using molecular and cellular techniques recently developed here at the Transplantation Biology Research Center at the Massachusetts General Hospital (by Emmanuel College graduates!), and the advantages of the inbred miniature swine model which allows for specific and reproducible MHC and minor antigen mismatching, these studies address the need for deeper understanding of the roles that genetics, central and peripheral mechanisms of tolerance, and the skin-specific cell populations all contribute in the establishment of tolerance of both dermal and epidermal components of the VCA.