My name is Ritesh Karsalia and I am a current senior, originally from Colonia, New Jersey. At Villanova, I am majoring in Biology and minoring in Latin American Studies and Spanish. When I’m not counting cells under a microscope, you can usually find me lifting weights at the gym, cooking (and excitedly eating) food, or making balloon animals. As an aspiring physician, I hope to use my passion for research to guide me in sprouting new advancements and inquiries in the field of medicine.
My area of research is focused on the implications of ordered and disordered phases of immune cell plasma membranes. The plasma membrane is a unique and ever-changing network of saturated and unsaturated lipids, cholesterol, carbohydrates, and proteins that is critical for the regulation and compartmentalization of a myriad of cellular functions. Embedded within all membranes are highly ordered sphingolipid, cholesterol, and protein-rich subdomains known as lipid rafts, which are key regulators of many signal transduction pathways occurring near the membrane. Disruption of lipid raft-based membrane order is known to impede many of these signaling events and cellular responses. Experimentation has revealed that CD4+ T cells exhibit an anergic, or unsuccessful, immune response correlated to increased membrane disorder as a result of inserting 7-ketocholesterol into the plasma membrane. My research seeks to examine the reversibility of this decrease in responsiveness through the cholesterol-mediated reconstitution of CD4+ T cell membrane order, after initial disruption with 7-ketocholesterol. Additionally, I am investigating the mechanistic underpinnings behind reduced CD4+ T cell proliferation by searching for abnormal ubiquitination patterns on the key cell surface proteins participating in antigen recognition and CD4+ T cell activation. A deeper understanding of this pivotal immunological phenomenon has great potential to refine current methods of defense against external pathogens, autoimmunity, and cancer.