Academic Profile : Faculty

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Asst Prof Loh Jia Tong
Assistant Professor, School of Biological Sciences
Dr Jia Tong Loh received her PhD training from Nanyang Technological University under the A*STAR Graduate Scholarship. She subsequently did her postdoctoral training at Bioprocessing Technology Institute and Singapore Immunology Network, focusing on the immune mechanisms underlying diseases like fungal infection, inflammatory bowel diseases, influenza, COVID-19 and atopic dermatitis, for the discovery of novel drug targets. In 2023, she joined NTU School of Biological Sciences as an Assistant Professor, leading a research team to work on understanding of immune regulation in children during health and diseases. She has published extensively in reputable journals such as Nature Immunology, Nature Communications and Journal of Clinical Investigation, and was a recipient of the NMRC Young Individual Research Grant in 2018 and 2022.
Although it is well-recognized that our immune system matures and evolves from infancy to adulthood as posited by the hygiene hypothesis, the underlying phenotypic and functional differences between the pediatric and adult immune system, and how they can be shaped by pathogenic triggers and dietary factors, remain poorly understood. With the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, the world’s attention has once again shifted its focus to the children. Why are children at lower risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, and if they were to be infected, why are they likely to be mild? But yet, other respiratory viruses can cause substantial morbidity and mortality in the pediatric population. At the same time, there have been reports of a rare but severe and life-threatening multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) emerging in children 1-2 months post-COVID-19 infection. These questions remain open, and our poor understanding on the children’s immune responses during diseases has resulted in limited, non-specific, and inefficacious treatment options available for this group of vulnerable individuals. This leaves them at risk of suffering from permanent damage, long-term complications, decreased quality of life, and even death.

As such, the objective of our lab is to uncover the unknowns of immunoregulation and immunopathogenesis in children during health and diseases using preclinical mouse models. This could aid in the (1) the identification of novel and specific therapeutic targets in children, (2) identification of children who are at risk of developing severe complications associated with infectious diseases for early intervention, and (3) development of novel vaccine adjuvants capable of promoting a more robust and prolonged immunity in children to reduce the need for booster shots.
 
  • Elucidating Dok3-calprotectin axis in neutrophils to identify potential therapeutic targets for management of severe COVID-19
  • Investigating the effects of high sugar diet during weaning on immune development and imprinting
  • Understanding immune responses and regulation in children towards the development of therapeutics and vaccine adjuvants for pediatric diseases