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Our research program seeks to dissect the complex dynamics of host-environment interactions required to sustain intestinal immune homeostasis and how breakdown in these interactions may lead to inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Although genome wide association studies (GWAS) have been instrumental in associating genetic variants/polymorphisms with IBD, assigning causality to these variants in IBD pathogenesis has proven to be difficult. In particular we are trying to understand how deregulation of intestinal immune homeostasis might lead to IBD and trying to discover the function of IBD-risk genes identified by Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS). To discover the function of IBD-risk genes, we focus in immunological processes that are involved at the initiation (priming of adaptive immune responses), progression (chronic inflammation) or resolution (tissue repair) of IBD. To translate genetic mutations to function, we have developed an innovative pipeline that integrate bioinformatics and animal models, including zebrafish and mouse, to ultimately validate candidates mutations in human tissues by using organoids.

My training involves a variety of disciplines such as developmental biology using zebrafish models, mucosal immunology, computational, IBD mouse models, and the analysis of genetic variations as well as the microbiota composition. This provides a unique opportunity to position an integrative and innovative research program to tackle relevant questions in the field of intestinal immune homeostasis and inflammatory bowel diseases.


Academic honors, awards and prizes

- KI consolidator award (2020)

- StratReg Junior Research Award, KI strategic research area (2020)

- Wallenberg Academy Fellow prolongation award, KAW foundation  (2020)

- Associated editor at Mucosal Immunology (2020-present)

- Young Investigator Award, Society of Mucosal Immunology (2017)

- Wallenberg Academy Fellow in Medicine, KAW foundation (2014)

- IMTAC FoAss position award, chosen as primary candidate (2014)

- FoAss extension award, Karolinska Institutet (2019)

- 40 under 40 in Latin American Science, Que Pasa magazine (2014)

- Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) research award, NY, USA (2010)

acadmic honorawardprize

Half-time Committees

2020             Emily Ross (Supervisor: Antonio Barragan), Stockholm University

2018             Gabriella Edfeldt (Supervisor: Kristina Broliden),  Karolinska Institutet

2017             Silke Sohn (Supervisor: Mikael Karlsson), Karolinska Institutet

2016             Marianne Forkel (Supervisor: Jenny Mjösberg), Karolinska Institutet


Thesis Committees

2020          Aleksandra Chikina (Supervisor: Anna-Maria Lennon), Institut Curie, Paris

2020          Elaine Piket (Supervisor: Maja Jagodic), Karolinska Institutet

2020          Martin Solders (Supervisor: Helen Kaipe), Karolinska Institutet

2020         Dilipkumar Malipatlolla (Supervisor: Cecilia Bull), Gothenburg University

2019         Carmen Herrera (Supervisor: Mia Philipsson), Uppsala University

2019          Inta Gribonika (Supervisor: Nils Lycke), Gothenburg University

2019          Melanie Pieber (Supervisor: Robert Harris), Karolinska Institutet

2018          Violaine Randrian (Supervisor: Anna-Maria Lennon), Institut Curie, Paris


Selected publications

Link to all publications on PubMed here.


Evren E, Ringqvist E., Tripathi KP., Sleiers N., Rives IC, Alisjahbana A, Gao Y, Sarhan D, Halle T, Sorini C, Lepzien R, Marquardt N, Michaëlsson J, Smed-Sörensen A, Botling J, Karlsson M, Villablanca EJ, Willinger T. Distinct developmental pathways from blood monocytes generate human lung macrophage diversityImmunity 2020, Dec 23;S1074-7613(20)30531-8. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2020.12.003. Online ahead of print.

Kaya B, Doñas C, Wuggenig P, Diaz O, Morales R, Melhem H, Swiss IBD Cohort, Hernández PP, Kaymak T, Das S, Hruz P, Ayata CK, Villablanca EJ*, Niess JH* . Lysophosphatidic acid-mediated GPR35 signaling in CX3CR1+ macrophages regulates the intestinal cytokine milieu. Cell Reports, 2020, August 04.  (*) Equal contribution

Parigi SM, Das S, Frede A, Cardoso RF, Tripathi KP, Doñas C, Yue OO, Antonson P, Engstrand L, Gustafsson JA, & Villablanca EJ. Liver X receptor regulates Th17 and RORgt+ Treg cells by distinct mechanisms. Mucosal Immunology. 2020, July 17.

Diaz OE., Xue S., Luo X., Nava J., Appelblom A., Morales RA., Das, S. & Villablanca EJ. Retinoic acid induced cytokines are selectively modulated by liver X receptor in zebrafish. Reprod Toxicol. 2020. April; 93. 163-168.

Czarnewski P, Parigi SM, Sorini C., Diaz OE., Das D, Gagliani N., & Villablanca EJ. Conserved transcriptomic profile between mouse and humans allows temporal dynamic visualization of IBD-risk genes and unsupervised patient stratificationNature Communications. 2019. Jun 28;10(1).

Das S, Doñas C, Akeus P, Quiding-Järbrink M, Mora JR, Villablanca EJ. β7 integrins contribute to intestinal tumor growth in mice. PLoS One. 2018 Sep 20;13(9):e0204181.

Parigi S, Czarnewski P, Das S, Steeg C, Brockmann L, Fernandez-Gaitero S, et al. Flt3 ligand expands bona fide innate lymphoid cell precursors in vivo. Sci Rep 2018 Jan;8(1):154.

Jijon H, Suarez-Lopez L, Diaz O, Das S, De Calisto J, Yaffe M, et al. Intestinal epithelial cell-specific RARα depletion results in aberrant epithelial cell homeostasis and underdeveloped immune system. Mucosal Immunol. 2018 May;11(3):703-715.

Peloquin J, Goel G, Villablanca E, Xavier R. Mechanisms of Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Annu. Rev. Immunol. 2016 May;34():31-64.

Parigi S, Eldh M, Larssen P, Gabrielsson S, Villablanca E. Breast Milk and Solid Food Shaping Intestinal Immunity. Front Immunol 2015 ;6():415.

Villablanca E, De Calisto J, Torregrosa Paredes P, Cassani B, Nguyen D, Gabrielsson S, et al. β7 integrins are required to give rise to intestinal mononuclear phagocytes with tolerogenic potential. Gut 2014 Sep;63(9):1431-40.

Chung H, Pamp S, Hill J, Surana N, Edelman S, Troy E, et al. Gut immune maturation depends on colonization with a host-specific microbiota. Cell 2012 Jun;149(7):1578-93.

Cassani B, Villablanca E, De Calisto J, Wang S, Mora J. Vitamin A and immune regulation: role of retinoic acid in gut-associated dendritic cell education, immune protection and tolerance. Mol. Aspects Med. 2012 Feb;33(1):63-76.

Villablanca E, Cassani B, von Andrian U, Mora J. Blocking lymphocyte localization to the gastrointestinal mucosa as a therapeutic strategy for inflammatory bowel diseases. Gastroenterology 2011 May;140(6):1776-84.

Cassani B, Villablanca E, Quintana F, Love P, Lacy-Hulbert A, Blaner W, et al. Gut-tropic T cells that express integrin α4β7 and CCR9 are required for induction of oral immune tolerance in mice. Gastroenterology 2011 Dec;141(6):2109-18.

Villablanca E, Wang S, de Calisto J, Gomes D, Kane M, Napoli J, et al. MyD88 and retinoic acid signaling pathways interact to modulate gastrointestinal activities of dendritic cells. Gastroenterology 2011 Jul;141(1):176-85.

Villablanca E, Raccosta L, Zhou D, Fontana R, Maggioni D, Negro A, et al. Tumor-mediated liver X receptor-alpha activation inhibits CC chemokine receptor-7 expression on dendritic cells and dampens antitumor responses. Nat. Med. 2010 Jan;16(1):98-105.

Villablanca E, Pistocchi A, Court F, Cotelli F, Bordignon C, Allende M, et al. Abrogation of prostaglandin E2/EP4 signaling impairs the development of rag1+ lymphoid precursors in the thymus of zebrafish embryos. J. Immunol. 2007 Jul;179(1):357-64.

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