Joel N.H. Stern, PhD
Dr. Joel N.H. Stern received a BS degree in biology from Columbia University, while conducting behavioral genetics research at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL). After completing an undergraduate degree, he taught basic science at CSHL’s DNA Learning Center. He then received MS and PhD degrees in biological sciences from Harvard University, where his thesis adviser was Professor Jack L. Strominger. Dr. Stern then completed a postdoctoral fellowship with Professor Edmond J. Yunis. Dr. Stern is currently an instructor in the Department of Developmental Biology at HSDM, under the mentorship of Dean Björn R. Olsen. He is also a member of the Board of Tutors in Biochemical Sciences at FAS, and is a visiting scholar in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University.
Fields of Interest
Dr. Stern’s scientific work focuses on the pathogenesis and modulation of autoimmune diseases, including blistering diseases of the mouth and skin, such as pemphigus, multiple sclerosis (MS), and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Pemphigus is a blistering autoimmune disease of the mouth and skin. The most common type of pemphigus, Pemphigus vulgaris (PV), is characterized by blisters and erosions in the mucus membranes and skin. Blisters occur due to a loss of cell adhesion deep within the epidermis, called acantholysis, which is caused by pathogenic auto-antibodies. Several proteases have recently been identified that may be involved in acantholysis formation, and new approaches have been initiated to investigate the role of these proteases in PV pathogenesis.
Both MS and ALS are diseases of the central nervous system. Murine models of MS and ALS are employed. The primary objective of Dr. Stern’s investigation is the development of novel treatments for these autoimmune diseases. Along with studying the basic mechanisms of their pathogenesis, he is exploring means of regulating these diseases through design and administration of immune system modulators. These modulators currently comprise two main categories of compounds: synthetic peptides and copolymers/polypeptides.
Dr. Stern is also working on alternative therapeutic approaches that involve the design of an in vivo antigen delivery system, using monoclonal fusion antibodies coupled with protein fragments of pathogenic targets. The mechanism by which these fusion antibodies alter immune responses is currently under investigation.