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Nicola Mary Heller, Ph.D.

Photo of Dr. Nicola Mary Heller, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine

Research Interests: Alternatively activated macrophage; STAT6; IRS-2; Asthma; Allergic inflammation; Interleukin(IL)-4/IL-13 signaling

Contact for Research Inquiries

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
720 Rutland Avenue
Ross 367
Baltimore, MD 21205 map
Phone: 410-955-1743
Fax: 410-614-0083

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Background

Dr. Nikki M. Heller is an assistant professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine and allergy and clinical immunology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Dr. Heller’s research focuses on the immunobiology of macrophages and how they affect diseases that have an inflammatory basis, including obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Macrophages are cells that form in response to an infection or damaged cells. They ingest foreign material and, thus, are an important part of the immune system. Current projects focus on uncovering the links between asthma and obesity and determining how gender and race affect asthma and obesity in humans.

She received his undergraduate degree from the University of Bath in 1995. She earned her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 2004.

Dr. Heller is an active mentor for students of all levels.

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Titles

  • Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine
  • Assistant Professor of Medicine

Education

Degrees

  • B.Sc., University of Bath (United Kingdom) (1995)
  • Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Maryland) (2004)

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Dr. Heller’s research focuses on the immunobiology of macrophages and how they affect diseases that have an inflammatory basis, including obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Although alternatively activated and classically activated macrophage phenotypes can be useful designations, it is apparent that macrophages exist along a phenotypic spectrum and may have the capacity to convert their phenotypes. Dr. Heller's group actively engages in this exciting new area of macrophage immunobiology.

Specifically, her laboratory focuses on the role of IL-4/IL-13 signaling in asthma and allergic disease. She is interested in the basic mechanisms of signaling: from the biology, signal transduction, and regulation of the IL-4/IL-13 receptor to the role of alternatively activated macrophages (AAM) in the pathogenesis of allergic inflammation. She focuses particularly on the anti-inflammatory aspects of AAM and what happens when AAM responses become chronic or are dysregulated.

Current projects are focused on uncovering the links between asthma and obesity and determining how gender and race affect asthma and obesity in humans. She and her team use a variety of techniques, including molecular and cellular biology, biochemistry, mouse models, cultured cell lines, and human patient samples to uncover cellular and molecular pathways that will be relevant targets for human clinical benefit.

Lab

Selected Publications

  1. Heller NM, Qi X, Gesbert F, Keegan AD. "The extracellular and transmembrane domains of the γc and IL-13Rα1 chains, not their cytoplasmic domains, dictate the nature of signaling responses to IL-4 and IL-13." J Biol Chem. 2012 Jul 24.
  2. Heller NM, Gwinn WM, Donnelly RP, Constant SL, Keegan AD. "IL-4 Engagement of the type I IL-4 receptor complex enhances mouse eosinophil migration to eotaxin-1 in vitro." PLoS One 7(6): e39673, 2012.
  3. Ford AQ, Heller NM, Stephenson L, Boothby MR, Keegan AD. "An atopy-associated polymorphism in the ectodomain of the IL-4R(alpha) chain (V50) regulates the persistence of STAT6 phosphorylation." J Immunol 183(3):1607-1616, 2009.
  4. Heller NM, Qi X, Junttila IS, Shirey KA, Vogel SN, Paul WE, Keegan AD. "Type I IL-4Rs selectively activate IRS-2 to induce target gene expression in macrophages." Sci Signaling 1(51): ra17, 2008.
  5. LaPorte SL, Juo ZS, Vaclavikova J, Colf LA, Qi X, Heller NM, Keegan AD, Garcia KC. "Molecular and structural basis of cytokine receptor pleiotropy in the interleukin-4/13 system." Cell 132:259-272, 2008.
  6. Fan J, Heller NM, Gorospe M, Atasoy U, Stellato C. "The role of post-transcriptional regulation in chemokine gene expression in inflammation and allergy." Eur Respir J. 2005 Nov; 26(5): 933-47.
  7. Heller NM, Matsukura S, Georas SN, Boothby MR, Rothman PB, Stellato C, Schleimer RP. "Interferon-γ inhibits STAT6 signal transduction and gene expression in human airway epithelial cells." Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol 31(5):573-582, 2004.
  8. Heller NM, Matsukura S, Georas SN, Boothby MR, Stellato C, Schleimer RP. "Assessment of STAT6 as a target of glucocorticoid action in human airway epithelial cells." Clin Exp Allergy 34(11):1690-1700, 2004.

Academic Affiliations & Courses

Graduate Program Affiliation

School of Medicine Immunology Graduate Program

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