Siddheshvar Bhela, a graduate research assistant in comparative and experimental medicine, is working on understanding the pathogenesis of eye and brain lesion development set off by herpes simplex virus ocular infection. Herpetic keratitis is the leading cause of corneal blindness in the developed world, and Bhela is focusing on defining novel approaches to therapy. In his work with Barry Rouse, he has investigated the role of innate immune sensors and microRNAs in the pathogenesis of herpetic stromal keratitis. In addition, Bhela has explored the role of miR-155 in herpes simplex encephalitis, and linked miR-155 expression with increased susceptibility of the nervous system to virus infection. He was also recently awarded seed grant funding from NeuroNet (Neuroscience Network of East Tennessee) as a co-investigator, along with Rouse and Alexander Osmand, to continue his research in the field of herpes simplex encephalitis at UT.
Since 2013, Bhela has published five articles in refereed journals with an average impact factor of 4.5. He was also honored with the American Association of Immunologists (AAI) Trainee abstract award for his presentation at the AAI international meeting in Honolulu in 2013. Before joining the CEM program, Bhela was a research assistant in the Hafler Laboratory of Molecular Immunology at Harvard Medical School/Brigham and Women’s Hospital. There, he began his studies into regulatory T cells and their implications for autoimmune diseases. Bhela plans to graduate in spring 2015, and he was the first CEM student to complete the concurrent MS degree in fall 2014.