Karen Laky, Ph.D.

Food Allergy Research Unit

Karen Laky, Ph.D. (She/Her/Hers)

Staff Scientist, Food Allergy Research Unit

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Portrait of Karen Laky, Ph.D.

Major Areas of Research

  • Investigation of cellular and biochemical pathways responsible for the symptoms characteristic of Loeys-Dietz syndrome (LDS) and other allergic diseases
  • Role of diet and microbiota in the development of allergy and oral tolerance

Program Description

Patients with Loeys-Dietz syndrome (LDS), an autosomal dominant disorder caused by mutations in genes encoding TGFβ receptors, exhibit a high prevalence of food allergy, asthma, eosinophilic esophagitis, and other allergic conditions. By studying LDS and other genetic disorders associated with defects in genes required for TGFβ signaling, we can achieve greater insight into the key cellular and signaling pathways that regulate allergic inflammation. Developing mouse models of LDS allows experimental manipulation of immune cells, diet, and the microbiome. The data acquired may have tremendous therapeutic implications not only for patients with these rare genetic conditions but also for the general population of patients who suffer from allergic diseases.



Ph.D., University of Connecticut
M.S., Adelphi University
B.S., SUNY Binghamton

Dr. Laky received a doctorate of philosophy in biomedical science from the University of Connecticut, for research on the role of cytokines in intra- and extra-thymic T-cell differentiation and homeostasis. In 2000, she started a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. B.J. Fowlkes in the NIAID Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Immunology. In 2008, she was appointed staff scientist. During her time in the T-Cell Development Section, she studied the role of Notch and T-cell receptor signaling in T-cell lineage commitment, selection, activation, differentiation, and effector function. In 2015, Dr. Laky joined the Food Allergy Research Unit as a staff scientist, where she continues her interest in mucosal immunology by characterizing the cellular mechanisms responsible for the high prevalence of food allergy, eosinophilic esophagitis, and elevated IgE associated with Loeys Dietz syndrome and elucidating the roles of diet and microbiome on the development of allergy.

Selected Publications

Laky K, Evans S, Perez-Diez A, Fowlkes BJ. Notch signaling regulates antigen sensitivity of naive CD4+ T cells by tuning co-stimulation. Immunity. 2015 Jan 20;42(1):80-94.

Laky K, Fowlkes BJ. Presenilins regulate alphabeta T cell development by modulating TCR signaling. J Exp Med. 2007 Sep 3;204(9):2115-29.

Laky K, Lewis JM, Tigelaar RE, Puddington L. Distinct requirements for IL-7 in development of TCR gamma delta cells during fetal and adult life. J Immunol. 2003 Apr 15;170(8):4087-94.

Laky K, Lefrançois L, Lingenheld EG, Ishikawa H, Lewis JM, Olson S, Suzuki K, Tigelaar RE, Puddington L. Enterocyte expression of interleukin 7 induces development of gammadelta T cells and Peyer's patches. J Exp Med. 2000 May 1;191(9):1569-80.

Santiago-Schwarz F, Rappa DA, Laky K, Carsons SE. Stem cell factor augments tumor necrosis factor-granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor-mediated dendritic cell hematopoiesis. Stem Cells. 1995 Mar;13(2):186-97.

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