Dr. Ashira Blazer is an assistant professor in the New York University School of Medicine Division of Rheumatology. Her interests involve studying the biologic and genetic determinants of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) severity in patients of African ancestry. Her current translational research project focuses on polymorphisms in the apolipoprotein L1 (APOL1) gene. APOL1, a major contributor to excess renal and cardiovascular risk in the African diaspora, is responsive to inflammatory signals and may be of heightened consequence in chronic inflammatory disease sufferers such as SLE patients. She has forged multiple international collaborations with rheumatology programs in West Africa, and through this work has preliminarily shown that APOL1 variant carriers with SLE experience internal organ scarring faster than other patients, particularly in the kidneys and cardiovascular systems. This, unfortunately, ultimately leads to mortality.
Unsatisfied with the clinical associations alone, Dr. Blazer is studying the mechanisms underpinning genetic phenomena through cultivating novel primary cell culture models. She has shown that metabolic disturbances in both endothelial and inflammatory cells render the candidate tissues vulnerable to chronic inflammatory stress. By studying the interplay between chronic inflammation, cellular function, and APOL1 gene expression, Dr. Blazer aims to provide personalized treatment options to the most vulnerable patients.