Center for Vaccine Research

Penelope A. Morel, MD

  • Professor
  • Immunology

Dr. Morel is an Associate Professor in the Department of Immunology and Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine. She received her MD in Medicine and Immunology in 1983 from the University of Geneva in Switzerland. Her research interest is Th1/Th2 differentiation and crossregulation and mathematical modeling of those interactions, the role of dendritic cells in therapy of autoimmune diabetes using a murine diabetes model, Fc receptor function on human NK cells, and finally the assessment of FcR allelic polymorphisms as risk factors of disease severity for patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Representative Publications

  • Morel PA, M Srinivas, MS Turner, P Fuschiotti, R Munshi, I Bahar, M Feili-Hariri, and ET Ahrens. Gene expression analysis of dendritic cells that prevent diabetes in NOD mice: analysis of chemokines and costimulatory molecules. 2011. J. Leuk. Biol. 90:539-550.
  • Zinman G, R Brower-Sinning, CH. Emeche, J Ernst, GTW Huang, S Mahony, AJ Myers, DM O’Dee, JL Flynn, GJ Nau, TM Ross, RD Salter, PV Benos, Z Bar Joseph and PA Morel. Large Scale Comparison of Innate Responses to Viral and Bacterial Pathogens in Mouse and Macaque. 2011. PLoS ONE 6(7):e22401
  • MS Turner, K Isse, HR Turnquist and PA Morel. Low TCR signal strength induces combined expansion of Th2 and regulatory T cell populations that protect mice from the development of type 1 diabetes. 2014. Diabetologia. Epub ahead of print
  • Morel PA. Dendritic cell subsets in type 1 diabetes: friend or foe? 2013. Front. Immunol. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2013.00415
  • N Miskov-Zivanov, MS Turner, LP Kane, PA Morel and JR Faeder. The duration of T cell stimulation is a critical determinant of cell fate and plasticity. 2013 Science Signaling; 6; ra97. doi: 10.1126/scisignal.2004217.
  • M Stefanovic-Racic, X Yang, MS Turner, BS Mantell, DB Stolz, TL Sumpter, IJ Sipula, N Dedousis, DK Scott, PA Morel, AW Thomson and RM O’Doherty. Dendritic cells promote macrophage infiltration and comprise a substantial proportion of obesity-associated increases in CD11c+ cells in adipose tissue and liver. 2012. Diabetes 61:2330-9

Research Interests

Our research is focused on the control of the T cell immune response and we are particulary interested in the factors that determine the differentiation of specific Th cell subsets, including T regulatory cells. This general area of research is being pursued in the several related projects. Dendritic cells and the control of autoimmunity and cancer We have identified dendritic cell subsets that protect NOD mice from diabetes development. DC therapy in this context leads to increases in the number of regulatory T cells such as Foxp3+ Treg and Th2 cells. We also observe an increase in Treg in the context of DC vaccines against cancer. We are examining how the DC can be manipulated to either enhance Treg induction in autoimmunity or induce robust anti-tumor immunity. Mathematical modeling of Th cell differentiation. This multidisciplinary project studies the important factors necessary to drive Treg and Th cell differentiation using a novel computer model. Predictions from the model are tested experimentally using T cells from TCR transgenic mice, analysis of signaling events and the tracking of immune responses in vivo.