Rocio Laguna is a medical doctor at Hospital Universitario 12 de Octubre in Madrid. Read how her team had to switch focus during the pandemic.
Dr. Rocio Laguna and her team at Hospital Universitario 12 de Octubre have successfully conducted several important projects connected to SARS-CoV-2 infections, especially in patients who are immune suppressed. That’s where they were when the pandemic hit – in the field of transplantation and immunodeficiency. Like for so many us, covid had them switch gears.
The work of our research group has been focused on transplant immunology. To understand tolerance, searching for early biomarkers predictive of rejection and finding new therapeutic targets. In the past years we have focused on three cell types relevant in transplantation: follicular helper T cells, myeloid derived suppressor cells and regulatory B cells.
In March 2020, we switched to analysing the inflammatory state of COVID-19 patients and we developed an IL-6-based mortality risk model for hospitalized patients. In addition, we studied the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection, with an emphasis in the cellular response, at different times post-infection, in the general population but also in specific groups such as transplant patients, rheumatological patients on different treatments and patients with common variable immunodeficiency. Finally, we studied the immune response triggered by mRNA vaccination, in the general population and in patient groups.
We are currently analysing aspects of the immune system in patients with long covid, trying to understand the pathophysiological basis underlying this highly prevalent condition. In addition, we have recently joined the research network CIBERINFEC (https://www.ciberinfec.es/) because of our work on CMV and SARS-CoV-2, and within this network we expect to broaden our scope to the study of the immune response against other viral infections. We are also excited that we are already starting to work again on our transplant research, mostly analysing the role of follicular helper T cells in transplantation.
Dr. Rocio Laguna
Tell us more, how did you end up at the hospital and what’s a work day like for you?
I did my clinical immunology residency at Hospital 12 de Octubre and I have stayed here since then. I chose this hospital for my residency as it is one of the major tertiary hospitals in Spain, with a strong emphasis on research and a potent Immunology Department.
Half of my time is dedicated to clinical work, that is laboratory testing to follow-up transplanted patients or patients in the transplant waiting list. The other half of my time is spent in research. I participate setting up new techniques and then most of the laboratory work is performed by our PhD students. For example, we have had a very good experience with the human IFN-γ/IL-2 FluoroSpot kit. There are two main aspects to this kit for me, which are how easy it is to use and how reliable it is. Using IRIS was my first experience with ELISpot or FluoroSpot, and our experiments have worked right from the first time.
I supervise the PhD students and take care of various tasks, from applying for research funding to setting up collaborations with clinical colleagues from the hospital. We collaborate closely with nephrologists for our transplant work, as well as with internal medicine and the infectious diseases unit for our CMV and covid work. Finally, I’m writing up manuscripts for publication.
Dr. Laguna and her team