Antibodies are critical to the body’s response to pathogens. But how does genetics influence an individual’s antibody repertoire? Current evidence shows that genetic factors can impact the diversity of antibody responses and functions. For example, twin studies have shown that features of the antibody repertoire are more similar in identical twins than in unrelated individuals. Additional studies have identified specific mutations affecting antibody binding.
At Bar-Ilan University, Dr. Oscar Rodriguez is investigating this question with more precision, using a novel method for long-read genetic sequencing to analyze the immunoglobulin heavy chain locus (IGH) in large multi-ethnic cohorts. The IGH is the region of the genome encoding the antibody genes, which has until now been too difficult to map using standard approaches.
Dr. Rodriguez’s postdoc at Bar-Ilan’s Bioengineering Department is in partnership with the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, where Dr. Rodriguez has been a postdoc fellow since 2020. The wet-lab and sequencing work takes place in Louisville; the Bar-Ilan team specializes in computational methods that leverage probabilistic, machine learning and deep learning models. The two labs are in close contact for this shared project, and support from the Zuckerman Postdoctoral Scholars Program enables Dr. Rodriguez to travel to participate in research in both locations.
Dr. Rodriguez completed a PhD at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (2020), with a thesis entitled “Using Long-Read Sequencing to Resolve Complex Regions of the Genome.” Here, he developed his computational framework for resolving the IGH locus and applied his long-read sequencing analysis method to a cohort of individuals affected with ataxia.
Dr. Rodriguez’s work to resolve complex regions of the human genome raises exciting possibilities for furthering our understanding of biology and disease. Better data about antibody variation could further delineate differences in individual responses to vaccines, infection, autoimmunity, and other antibody-related diseases.