J Michelle Kahlenberg

J. Michelle Kahlenberg, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor of Internal Medicine
Professor of Dermatology
Giles Boles and Dorothy Mulkey Research Professor of Rheumatology
Vice Chair of Basic and Translational Research, Department of Internal Medicine
Accepting Students?


Dr. Kahlenberg completed her BS in Biology (Summa Cum Laude) at Denison University, her MD, PhD, and Internal Medicine training at Case Western Reserve University and her fellowship in Rheumatology at the University of Michigan. Her clinical work is centered on the care of complicated lupus patients, including those with refractory skin disease. Her independent research laboratory (est. 2013) is funded by multiple NIH (including R01) and foundation awards and combines translational approaches using patient samples and murine models to uncover the mechanisms that drive lupus and other autoimmune diseases. In particular, she is focused on unraveling the pathogenic mechanisms in cutaneous lupus, the factors that drive photosensitivity, and how skin inflammation can influence systemic lupus activity. She has published 108 papers in high impact journals including Science Translational Medicine, JCI and Nature Immunology. Seminal discoveries from her lab include the role for IFN-kappa and of dysfunction of “normal” keratinocytes in lupus skin disease. As a testament to her impact within lupus research, her work has received institutional accolades, including being named the inaugural Giles Bole and Dorothy Mulkey Research Chair in Rheumatology at U-M, and national recognition from the Arthritis National Research Foundation, The Rheumatology Research Foundation, and the Lupus Foundation of America. In addition, in 2018, she was awarded a PECASE, the top award given by the President of the United States to outstanding early career scientists and engineers. In 2022 she was named an American College of Rheumatology Henry Kunkel Young Investigator awardee, the top award for early physician scientists in Rheumatology. In 2023, she was admitted into the Henry Kunkel Society. In her spare time, she enjoys organic gardening, working on the family farm “EMMA Acres” run by her husband, Mark, and spending time with her husband and children.


Research Interests

Our lab is focused on uncovering the mechanisms that drive lupus, lupus flares, and the development of subsequent complications. We use basic, translational, and clinical approaches coupled with state-of-the-art omics techniques to uncover new therapeutic avenues. Specific areas of interest include the effects of interferons on the immune system, drivers of photosensitivity and mitochondrial dysregulation in lupus skin.

Research Opportunities for Rotating Students

Open projects include investigation of the regulation of IFNK production in humans and mice. Other projects, including the impact of ultraviolet light on lupus activity will also be available.