Faculty Spotlight - Dr. Knight

Faculty Spotlight - Jason Knight, MD, PhD

Jason S. Knight, MD, PhD, earned both his MD and PhD degrees from the University of Michigan, and completed the majority of his PhD thesis while at the University of Pennsylvania, due to the relocation of his thesis advisor. He completed his residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of Michigan.

His research is generally focused on lupus - specifically antiphospholipid antibodies (aPL), which are a particular type of autoantibody present in 30-40% of lupus patients. Lupus affects between 1 in 500 and 1 in 1000 Americans, with women, African Americans, and Hispanics at an especially high risk. aPL predict bad outcomes in lupus. If a lupus patient has aPL, they are:

  • 10-times more likely to have blood clots (DVT, pulmonary embolus, stroke)
  • 8-times more likely to have pregnancy loss
  • 6-times more likely to have heart valve disease (which often requires surgery)
  • 4-times more likely to have destruction of red blood cells or platelets
  • 3-times more likely to have kidney disease (which can lead to kidney failure)
  • 3-times more likely to have pulmonary hypertension

Dr. Knight’s goal is to find a cure for antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) by better understanding the pathophysiology of this condition. He and his team have developed an APS cohort/biobank that includes 100 unique patients. His goal is to triple that number within 5 years – a realistic goal, as the University of Michigan saw 455 patients with a diagnosis of APS in 2017 alone. Dr. Knight and his team will continue to:

  • Leverage cutting edge genetic, epigenetic, metabolomic, and biochemical profiling to better understand disease pathophysiology
  • Devise improved biomarkers of disease risk and disease activity, to provide empiric treatment to the patients who need it
  • Develop more precise treatments, for which the benefits will clearly outweigh the risks

In 2018, Dr. Knight and his team have identified a receptor on neutrophils that, when activated, can prevent the release of inflammatory structures called neutrophil extracellular traps or NETs. His work in cell culture and animal models suggests that this discovery may lead to an effective treatment for conditions such as APS, ANCA-associated vasculitis, and Behçet’s disease.

Dr. Knight has published his work and has ongoing projects with many other U-M physicians and scientists, including Paula Bockenstedt (Hematology), Dan Eitzman (Cardiology), Lola Eniola-Adefeso (Chemical Engineering), Peter Henke (Vascular Surgery), Yogen Kanthi (Cardiology), David Markowitz (Infectious Diseases), David Pinsky (Cardiology), and Amr Sawalha (Rheumatology). Collaborators outside U-M have included Doruk Erkan (Hospital for Special Surgery), Patricia Liaw (McMaster, Canada), and Antonio Cabral (Ottawa). Dr. Cabral, now Head of the Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, began his career as a research fellow here at U-M, working with Dr. C. William Castor. He returned to his home country of Mexico where he became interested in the aPL syndrome, and recently moved to Canada.

Currently, Dr. Knight also has ongoing projects with Joyce Rauch (McGill), Ora Gewurz-Singer (U-M), Ray Zuo (UT Southwestern), and several pharmaceutical companies.

He is always seeking motivated students and post-doctoral fellows to work in his laboratory. Please contact Dr. Knight at jsknight@umich.edu with questions.

To make a gift to support Dr. Knight's research, please visit the Knight Lab Gift Fund online giving page.