With a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a team of researchers—including professor Juergen Hahn—will investigate the potential of using transplanted regulatory T cells (Tregs) to reduce inflammation in diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, which currently has no known viable treatment options.

Juergen Hahn

Juergen Hahn

“The challenge is that the transplanted cells are not very ‘stable’ and may end up contributing to inflammation rather than combating inflammation,” said Hahn, professor and head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. “We propose to condition the regulatory T cells by exposing them to various conditions prior to transplantation such that their stability is increased, and we expect that this will make them more potent in combating inflammation. Our goal is to transplant conditioned Tregs into a host for therapeutic inhibition of inflammation.”

The project will combine computational research at Rensselaer with research in vitro and in vivo at two Texas A&M University research laboratories. The team will create a computational model able to predict Tregs induction, function, and stability. That model will be used to develop treatment regimens that use transplanted Tregs to inhibit inflammation, providing new treatment options for a variety of diseases characterized by excessive inflammation.


Scanning electron micrograph of a human transplanted regulatory T cell from the immune system of a healthy donor. Credit: National Institutes of Health.

“Modeling and Analysis of the Role of Microbiota Metabolites in T-Cell Differentiation” is supported by a five-year grant from the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Hahn is an expert in systems biology and process modeling and analysis with over 80 articles and book chapters in print. He is widely recognized for his research and contributions to the field. He is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, recipient of a CAST Outstanding Young Researcher Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, winner of several foundation fellowships and best paper awards, and recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship. He is currently serving as an associate editor for the journal Control Engineering Practice and as editor for the Journal of Process Control.

Prior to joining the School of Engineering in 2012, Hahn served for nine years as a faculty member at Texas A&M University. A native of Germany, he received his diploma in engineering from RWTH Aachen University in Germany, and received his master’s and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Texas.