Zaida G. Ramirez-Ortiz PhD

University of Massachusetts Medical School

I was born and raised in a small town in Puerto Rico. I graduated with honors from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez with a degree in Biology. I then left Puerto Rico to pursue a graduate degree at University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS), my first steps to fulfilling a lifelong dream to become an independent investigator in biomedical sciences. As a PhD student, I studied fungal immunology with a focus on innate immune receptors and dendritic cells. My predoctoral work led to two first-authored publications plus one review article. My postdoctoral studies were in the Center of Immunology and Inflammatory Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). My initial project was to dissect the role of scavenger receptors in host defenses against fungi. However, during the course of these studies, we discovered that a scavenger receptor expressed on endothelial cells 1 (SCARF1, SREC1) is required for the clearance of apoptotic cells and plays a crucial role preventing autoimmunity (Nature Immunology 2013). This exciting finding prompted me to shift the focus of work to defining the role of SCARF1-positive cells in controlling inflammation during Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). In 2019, I accepted an Assistant Professor faculty position at UMMS as an independent investigator. The discoveries made on SCARF1 in mice led me to propose to investigate the role of SCARF1 in apoptotic cell clearance and the development of lupus disease in humans. My lab performs research in the field of immunology with a focus on molecular and cellular mechanisms of inflammation and host defense. In more detail, our work concentrates on understanding the role of mammalian Toll-Like Receptors (TLR), Scavenger Receptors (SR) and Triggering Receptor expressed on Myeloid Cells (TREM) in innate immune responses to a myriad of danger molecules derived from foreign and self-host sources.