Vida Hodara, Ph.D.

Staff Scientist II, Leader of the Flow Cytometry Lab of the Immunology Laboratory Core; Dr. Luis Giavedoni's Lab | Southwest National Primate Research Center, Virology & Immunology

Research Focus

Dr. Hodara has been working in medical sciences for over 20 years, focusing on virology and immunology studies. She oversees the Flow Cytometry component of the Immunology Core at the Southwest National Primate Research Center at Texas Biomed. Her studies, performed as part of the research group led by Dr. Luis Giavedoni, involve the use of cell culture, immunohistochemistry, and flow cytometry methods. Currently, Dr. Hodara conducts research on the acute infection with pathogenic virus in the rhesus macaque/simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) model to study HIV.

Other collaborative projects for which Dr. Hodara oversees the flow cytometry efforts involve various nonhuman primates (rhesus, pigtail, and African green monkey, cynomolgus macaques, baboons, marmosets) and include TB, Dengue, Ebola-Marburg, and more. She is also involved with baboon studies to better understand vascular disorders, maternal nutrition, and fetal development. Her work helped demonstrate that the baboon provides an excellent model to optimize therapies for human clinical studies.


Inside the Lab

Viral infection and immune responses:

  • Vaccinating rhesus macaques with attenuated SIV lacking the “nef” gene and expressing CD154 showed only transient responses, pointing to Nef as viral factor interfering with the immune mechanisms that regulate expression of CD154 in CD4+ T cells infected with wild-type virus.
  • We showed that toll-like receptors (TLR) in rhesus macaques increase antiviral mechanisms after Dengue virus infection, demonstrating how the virus can evade immune recognition and activation in vivo.
  • We observed that increases in NKG2C expression on T cells and higher levels of circulating CD8+ B cells are associated with sterilizing immunity provided by a live-attenuated SIV vaccine.

 AIDS pathogenesis research:

Infection of rhesus macaques with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) is the preferred animal model for the development and testing of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) vaccines. Animals protected from SIV challenge by live attenuated vaccines are an invaluable tool for determining immune correlates of protection.

Studies on the acute infection with pathogenic virus in the rhesus macaque/ SIV model first documented evidence that the innate immune system of rhesus macaques recognizes SIV infection by sequential production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and transient activation of NK cytotoxic activity. We identified the active role of NK cells during the acute phase of infection and demonstrated a novel application of a low-stress, nonhuman primate tethering system for evaluation of SIVmac251 infection in rhesus macaques. A synergy between mucosal inflammation and SIV infection during periodontal inflammation points at potential implications for long-term pathogenesis.

Vascular disorders:

In collaborative efforts we study vascular disorders, mainly in baboons. Ischemia due to vascular ligation mobilizes multiple types of cells with distinct roles. We found that CD146+ cells from baboons may provide a source for therapeutic application, since they exhibit higher reparative capacity than CD34+ cells. Resveratrol, a drug with cardio-protective effects, may have potential in the prevention or treatment of inflammatory vascular disease. We confirmed specified CD34+ endothelial progenitor cells as promising therapeutic agents for repairing damaged vasculature.

Betamethasone studies

Betamethasone treatment of pregnant female baboons showed that it affects components of the fetal and maternal immune system and alters the maternal cytotoxic T and NK populations. By studying blood of the prematurely born baboon, we discovered monocyte-stimulated PDGF-B production as a potential mediator of smooth muscle cell migration during ductus closure.

We studied how diets affect blood vessels and impacts the development of cardiovascular diseases by observing endothelial-derived particles in blood during a dietary challenge. We detected endothelial damage by circulating particles in baboons on a diet high in simple carbohydrates and saturated or unsaturated fat.

Main Technologies Used

  • Cell culture
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Flow cytometry, cell sorting (with FACSAria)
  • Multicolor phenotyping
  • Intracellular staining of cellular proteins
  • Intracellular detection of viruses
  • Luminex