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Barbara Detrick, Ph.D.

Photo of Dr. Barbara Detrick, Ph.D.

Director, Cytokine Laboratory

Professor of Pathology


Research Interests: Cytokine biology in immune-based disorders; Immunoregulation in the retina and ocular diseases; Clinical immunology


Dr. Barbara Detrick is a Professor of Pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Professor at the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Detrick serves as the director of the Cytokine Laboratory.

Dr. Detrick’s research focuses on clinical immunology, with a primary interest on immune responses in the eye. Her research on the eye has identified key immune responses in retinal degenerative diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and autoimmune retinopathy. She also discovered and characterized a critical ocular protein, RPE65,  that is now the basis of gene therapy for retinal diseases. She is currently investigating immune and viral factors associated with pathogenic processes within the eye.

She has received numerous awards and was recently recognized with the 2013 Veritas Distinguished Alumni Award from Caldwell University, New Jersey. She is a member of the Leadership Program for Women Faculty at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and she is Editor-in-Chief of the 7 th and now the 8 th edition of the internationally recognized manual, The Manual of Molecular and Clinical Laboratory Immunology. more


  • Director, Cytokine Laboratory
  • Professor of Pathology
  • Professor of Medicine

Departments / Divisions

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Dr. Detrick's research interests bridge basic research and translational research related to clinical immunology. Her primary research goal is to study immune responses in the eye.

More specifically, her group has explored the retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cell extensively as an important immunoregulatory and multifunctional ocular cell and tracked its role in ocular diseases. Over the last several years, they have investigated innate immunity in the retina. RPE cells are key players in the first-line defense against invading organisms. TLRs are critical recognition receptors in the host defense against microbial pathogens and play a pivotal role in innate immunity. Using real-time PCR analysis, a variety of TLRs were discovered and shown to be up-regulated in human RPE cells. Moreover, TLR signaling in these cells generates several critical cytokines that impact a variety of pathologic processes within the eye. A key feature generated from these findings was that IFN-beta was shown to be immunosuppressive, and inhibited selected experimental retinal diseases by down-regulating CXCL9 and ICAM-1 on retinal endothelial cells. These studies have now been extended to brain endothelial cells in experimental cerebral malaria.


Over the years, my research interest has bridged basic and clinical research. A long-standing interest of my work has been exploring the retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cell extensively as an important immunoregulatory and multifunctional ocular cell and track its role in ocular diseases. I was an integral part of the first three research papers identifying and characterizing the RPE specific 65-kD protein (RPE65). This molecule has subsequently been the subject of active genetic research studies on retinal degenerative diseases. Mutations in the RPE65 gene have been identified in Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis. Recently a key medical application identified that an RPE65 adenoviral vector expressing RPE65 cDNA was used successfully to treat 12 young patients with this disease. The potent regulatory role of the RPE was identified in my initial report that described the RPE cell as an antigen-presenting cell. In 2004, I characterized the presence of toll-like receptors on RPE cells and examined how cytokines influence RPE cell production of VEGF in Age Related Macular Degeneration. These studies have laid the groundwork for future corroborating research showing that the RPE cell orchestrates both innate and adaptive immunity.  My laboratory also developed a unique murine coronavirus model system, which identified for the first time how a virus can trigger a retinal degenerative process associated with an autoimmune component. Currently, this animal model has set the stage for developing standardized diagnostic methods to monitor retinal autoimmune reactivity in human retinal degenerative diseases.

Immunologically, cytokines have emerged as mediators that bridge innate and adaptive immunity, as molecules that participate in both inflammatory and anti-inflammatory activities and as regulators that influence numerous diseases. To date, my work focuses on role of cytokines in the development, progression and complications of certain inflammatory conditions and their possible utility as biomarkers of early inflammatory disease. It is anticipated that this information may yield insights into their pathophysiology.

Cytokine Laboratory

Because of their major participatory role in nearly all pathophysiologic processes and their therapeutic potential, there is a need to identify and measure cytokines.  In 2003 the Cytokine Laboratoryin the Dept. of Pathology, JHU was established. This was the first CLIA-certified laboratory that provided service to many investigators inside and outside JHU. This laboratory has evaluated patient samples from a variety of clinical departments including Rheumatology, Neurology, Cardiology, Oncology and more. Over the years, this endeavor has served to support basic/translational studies both within and outside the JHU. This laboratory has also served as a novel research resource for several young investigators throughout the years. Currently, this laboratory is an integral part of 3 NIH funded grants.

Core Facility: Cytokine

Selected Publications

Allen JG, Lee MT, Weiss ES, Arnaoutakis GJ, Shah AS, Detrick B. "Preoperative recipient cytokine levels are associated with early lung allograft dysfunction." Ann Thorac Surg. 2012 Jun;93(6):1843-9. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2012.02.041. Epub 2012 Apr 13.

Nagineni CN, Kommineni VK, William A, Detrick B, Hooks JJ. "Regulation of VEGF expression in human retinal cells by cytokines: implications for the role of inflammation in age-related macular degeneration." J Cell Physiol. 2012 Jan;227(1):116-26. doi: 10.1002/jcp.22708

Morrell CN, Srivastava K, Swaim A, Lee MT, Chen J, Nagineni C, Hooks JJ, Detrick B. "Beta interferon suppresses the development of experimental cerebral malaria." Infect Immun. 2011 Apr;79(4):1750-8. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00810-10. Epub 2011 Jan 18.

Detrick B, Hooks JJ. "Immune regulation in the retina." Immunol Res. 2010 Jul;47(1-3):153-61. doi: 10.1007/s12026-009-8146-1. Review.

Nagineni CN, Kommineni VK, William A, Hooks JJ, Detrick B. "IL-11 expression in retinal and corneal cells is regulated by interferon-gamma." Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2010 Jan 1;391(1):287-92. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2009.11.051. Epub 2009 Nov 12.

Hooks JJ, Nagineni CN, Hooper LC, Hayashi K, Detrick B. "IFN-beta provides immuno-protection in the retina by inhibiting ICAM-1 and CXCL9 in retinal pigment epithelial cells." J Immunol. 2008 Mar 15;180(6):3789-96.

Academic Affiliations & Courses

Graduate Program Affiliation

Graduate Program in Immunology

Graduate Program in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology

Activities & Honors


  • Veritas Distinguished Alumni Award, Caldwell College, 2013
  • Elected to Fellowship, American Academy of Microbiology, American Society for Microbiology, 1993
  • AMLI Distinguished Service Award, Association of Medical Laboratory Immunologists, 2010
  • SPH Diversity Award for Outstanding Faculty, Bloomberg SPH, Johns Hopkins University, 2014

Professional Activities

  • Leadership Program for Women Faculty, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 2012
  • Appointed Member, Diversity Leadership Council, Johns Hopkiins University, 2017
  • President, Association of Medical Laboratory Immunologists, USA, 2005
  • Board Chairperson, American Board of Medical Laboratory Immunology, AAM, USA, 2006
  • Member, Steering Committee, Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies, 2016
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