NIH Training Grant Fellow: Ankita Shukla

Ankita Shukla


Ankita Shukla is a proud Anteater! She earned her B.S. in Developmental and Cell Biology and a B.A. in Anthropology at the UC Irvine in 2012.  Ankita conducted clinical research in Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder with Dr. Sharon Wigal through the Child Development Center at UC Irvine. Dr. Wigal later invited her to co-author a drug review1. Ankita also conducted bench research in Dr. Christopher Hughes’ angiogenesis lab. Here, she studied the role of VEGF signaling in blood vessel formation2. Before returning to UCI to pursue her graduate studies, she worked as a research associate in Dr. Daniel Martínez’s lab at Pomona College.  Her primary focus was studying the migration of stem cells in chimeric hydra, which are rapidly able to regenerate all parts of their body.

Ankita’s love for the collaborative environment brought her back to UC Irvine.  As a part of Dr. Matthew Inlay’s lab in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, she began to understand the embryonic origins of Hematopoietic Stem Cells (HSCs) in transgenic mouse models. Her hematopoiesis project sparked her interest in the developmental origins of tissue-resident immune populations, specifically the CNS-resident macrophages called microglia. Though the embryonic origins of microglia were her original focus, her project evolved to studying the role of immune system in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). With close guidance from Dr. Inlay, Ankita independently developed a thesis project which focuses on distinguishing between brain-resident microglia and peripheral macrophages which infiltrate the brain in AD, which remains an important question in the field.

Her project utilizes a novel marker to distinguish between microglia and infiltrating macrophages. The results of this project identify the cells that surround the beta-amyloid (Aß) plaques in AD brains, which has not been possible thus far. She aims to manipulate the expression of the novel marker to reduce peripheral macrophage infiltration. Her data suggests a therapeutic target for alleviating inflammation and, thus, AD pathology. Ankita seeks to confirm her mouse findings in humans. Additionally, Ankita’s findings in AD mouse models may also be insightful in treating other neurodegenerative conditions like Salmonella and Toxoplasma infections as well as Multiple Sclerosis.          


1)   Wigal, S. B., Raja, P., Shukla, A. "An update on lisdexamfetamine dimesylate for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder." Expert opinion on pharmacotherapy 14.1 (2013): 137-145.

2)   Shukla A. Effect of alk1 on VEGF/VEGR2 expression in endothelial cells. Journal of Undergraduate Research 2011-2012. UC Irvine. Online.

Honors and Awards:

2016-2017    NIH Immunology Research Training Program grant T32 AI 60573, UC Irvine

April 2016    AGS Research Symposium, UC Irvine- 2016 People’s Choice Winner