Mary Nakamura received her B.A. from Swarthmore College, her M.D. from Yale and trained in internal medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. She completed her rheumatology training at Johns Hopkins and UCSF. She did her post doctoral work at UCSF under the mentorship of Bill Seaman. She is a basic-translational researcher focused on studies in the field of osteoimmunology. She leads the Rheumatoid Arthritis Clinic at UCSF Parnassus and is a clinical attending at the SF VA HCS.
My research has focused on the study of cells in the innate immune system. We have focused on receptor regulation of NK cells, macrophages and osteoclasts and the roles these cells play in disease pathology and tissue repair. We were one the early investigative groups focusing work in the field of Osteoimmunology, defined as a cross disciplinary field to integrate studies of the immune system and studies of bone and better define the interactions between these systems.
Osteoclasts are the only bone resorbing cell, and are derived from monocyte/macrophage precursors. Our studies demonstrated that innate immune receptors that utilize ITAM or immunoreceptor tyrosine based activation motif signals are critical regulators of osteoclast development and function, during normal bone development and homeostasis and we demonstrated that mice deficient in the ITAM adapter signaling chains DAP12 and FcRgamma are severely osteopetrotic due to defective osteoclast differentiation and function. Our studies suggest that osteoclasts are regulated much like other innate immune cells such as natural killer cells, macrophages and dendritic cells and should be considered an integral part of the innate immune system.
I have chosen to focus work in my laboratory on osteoimmunology since the role of innate immune receptor regulation in the bone is an understudied area, and inflammatory bone loss is of direct importance in rheumatologic diseases. My overall goal is to examine the role of innate immune receptors in autoimmune disease states and bone remodeling, which integrates my research interests with my clinical subspecialty work. Our studies in the role of immune cells in bone repair have led us to collaborative studies examining the role of innate immune cells in other types of tissue repair including traumatic brain injury, ischemic stroke and myocardial infarction.
Our work has primarily been focused in mouse models of disease, but we are also involved in studies of human osteoclasts in vitro and are beginning translational studies with rheumatic disease patients.