Co-Director, Therapeutics Development Core
Professor and Director, Department of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology and Professor of Pathology
The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
M. Christine Zink earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and a Ph.D. in Macrophage Biology from the University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada. As a Postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University from 1985-1988, she began studying animal models of HIV-infection and lentivirus pathogenesis under Opendra Narayan. Upon completion of this work, she accepted an Assistant Professorship in Comparative Medicine, becoming the Director of Comparative Medicine’s Post-Doctoral Training Programs in 1999. Advancement to full professorship followed in 2000. In 2007, Dr Zink was appointed Director of the department, now referred to as the Department of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology.
For the NIMH Center, Dr Zink serves as Co-Director for the Therapeutics Development Core where she contributes to grant development in a collaborative effort with faculty from her department and the department of Neurology. Her animal model of SIV CNS disease is utilized to evaluate potential novel therapeutics for HIV-Cognitive Disorders, a major focus for the Center.
Dr Zink’s SIV/macaque model of HIV infection is widely considered to be the premier model for the study of the pathogenesis of HIV neurological, pulmonary, and cardiac disease. HIV, the agent that causes acquired immunodeficiency (AIDS), is a lentivirus that causes persistent infection, immunosuppression with resultant opportunistic infections and chronic disease, including encephalitis and pneumonia in humans. Dr Zink and colleagues demonstrated that SIV replication in the brain induces the expression of chemokines, particularly CCL-2 (MCP-1) that recruit lymphocytes and macrophages to the tissue. This influx of cells results in inflammation within the tissue, which may have both beneficial and detrimental effects.
The laboratory group identified the use of an inexpensive and safe antibiotic, minocycline, to suppress replication of HIV/SIV and significantly suppress the encephalitis and neurodegeneration associated with HIV/SIV infection. The efficacy of minocycline is being evaluated in human clinical trials of HIV-infected patients with HAND by Dr Ned Sacktor, co-director of the Center, both in the USA and Uganda. This work and other studies from Dr. Zink’s laboratory have resulted in over 100 publications in peer-reviewed journals.
Future collaborative work with the Therapeutics Subcore plans to take the most promising drugs from identified novel therapeutic high throughput screening assays and later test them in macaques. Dr Zink’s SIV model for HIV CNS penetration that is used in her laboratory allows for the rapid development of SIV CNS disease in these animals that mimics the human disease, HIV-associated dementia. The usefulness of these neuroprotective drugs can be determined rapidly using SIV-infected animals in a relatively cost-effective manner.
Dr Zink is also considered a veterinary expert in canine sports medicine. She has published a video and several books, including Dog Health and Nutrition for Dummies (2001) and Performance: Coaching the Canine Athlete, both in 2001 and a 2nd German Edition in 2005.
- Journal of Neurovirology, Current HIV Research
Science, Infection and Immunity, Journal of Virology, Veterinary Pathology, American Journal of Pathology, Clinical Immunology and Immunopathology, Laboratory Investigation, Virus Research, Virology, AIDS Research & Human Retroviruses, Journal of Neurovirology, Journal of Virology, Annals of Neurology