The Agalliu laboratory studies the blood brain barrier (BBB), an important gatekeeper between the blood and central nervous system (CNS). Dysfunction in the endothelial cells that form this barrier are implicated in several neurological and psychiatric disorders, such as Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections (PANDAS). In PANDAS the humoral adaptive response, specifically autoreactive antibodies against several targets in the CNS, is implicated in disease pathogenesis. However, how these autoantibodies infiltrate the BBB is not well understood.
In the Agalliu lab, Nicole runs an IRB-approved research study on PANDAS, alongside the mentorship of Dr. Wendy Vargas and Dr. Tyler Cutforth. For this research study the team is recruiting patients with PANDAS to donate biological samples for laboratory analysis. The goal is to determine whether components in PANDAS patient’s blood serum contribute to BBB dysfunction. This IRB study is also looking into a genetic link to the disease. The team will perform genetic testing on PANDAS patient’s blood samples to explore a potential genetic marker that predisposes certain children to developing PANDAS.