Biomedical Sciences & Pathobiology Faculty

S. Ansar Ahmed, DVM, PhD

S. Ansar Ahmed
Professor, Immunology
Associate Dean,
Research and Graduate Studies


  • 1985 – 1987
    Leukemia Foundation of America Fellow
    The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
  • 1985
    School of Veterinary Studies
    The Murdoch University, Australia
  • 1978
    DVM (B.V.Sc)
    University of Agricultural Sciences

Research Interests

  • To understand the basis of sex differences in autoimmune diseases. Regulation of transcription factors and gene activation events by immunomodulators (e.g. natural and environmental estrogens)
  • To investigate microRNA regulation of the immune system in health and autoimmune diseases. To understand the interactions of microRNAs with other epigenetic factors (altered methylation and acetylation) that influence lupus and inflammation.
  • To study the role of neutrophils in lupus models.
  • To decipher the complex interactions of microbiome with epigenetics and inflammation in lupus

The primary research interest in Dr. S. Ansar Ahmed’s laboratory is to better understand why the immune system launches a misdirected attack on self-tissues leading to devastating chronic autoimmune diseases, which afflict millions and costs billions in health care costs. Lupus also afflicts domesticated species including dogs and cats.

Multifactors Induce/Promote Autoimmune Diseases Diagram showing how various factors, including genetics, infections, gender/sex, and environment contribute to various autoimmune diseases

One of the central questions being addressed is why these disorders occur preferentially in females. Two different approaches are taken to better understand inflammatory diseases by utilizing wildtype, gene knockouts, and transgenic mice. These include: (1) inflammation induced by an immunomodulator (e.g. estrogen) and (2) utilization of various genetically lupus-prone mice. His laboratory is nationally/internationally recognized in the above areas and is actively working in several inter-related research projects pertaining to inflammation and autoimmune diseases:

  • To investigate how hormonal factors (e.g. natural and environmental estrogens) alter signaling pathways, transcription factors and gene activation events involved in the induction of inflammatory cytokines in murine models of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
  • To understand how epigenetics (microRNA, altered methylation and acetylation) influences lupus and inflammation. Naturally occurring small RNAs (microRNAs) regulate the immune system in healthy and autoimmune individuals. We have identified signature expression profile of microRNAs in mice exposed to estrogen, and between sexes in lupus-prone mice. Importantly, select microRNAs have been shown to directly down-regulate inflammatory proteins. The identification of signature microRNA expression profile in autoimmune states is of prognostic, diagnostic and therapeutic importance.
  • To delineate complex functions of neutrophils in lupus.
  • To understand the emerging role of microbiome in rheumatic autoimmune diseases.
  • A long-term translational medicine goal is to develop innovative therapies to dampen damaging inflammatory cytokine signaling pathways in inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. This is much needed since current therapies (immunosuppressive drugs) have significant side effects.
  • (Dr. Ansar Ahmed’s program has been funded by NIH and several non-federal foundations).

Dr. Ansar Ahmed also directs the DVM summer program to provide research experience opportunities for DVM students. More details are available at

Professional Experience

  • 2016 – Present
    Associate Dean
    Research and Graduate Studies
    VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine
    Virginia Tech
  • 2008 – 2016
    Department Head
    Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology
    VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine
    Virginia Tech
  • 2007 – 2008
    Interim Head
    Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology
    VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine
    Virginia Tech
  • 2006 – Present
    NIH and Merial DVM Summer Veterinary Research Scholars Program
  • 2002 – 2007
    Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases
    VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine
    Virginia Tech
  • 2001 – Present
    Professor of Immunology
    Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology
    VA-MD College of Veterinary Medicine
    Virginia Tech
  • 2014 – Present
    VT Faculty of Health Sciences, Translational Biology, Medicine, Biology and Health Program
    VT-Carilion Research Institute

Professional Memberships

  • American Association of Immunologists
  • International Cytokine Society
  • OSSD
  • Phi Zeta Kappa Honor Society
  • Member of Grant Review Panels Served on 26 NIH study sections, and 12 National Foundation grant review panels, and several national-level research policy panels

Publications (Selected from over 100)

  1. Dai and Ansar Ahmed. Sexual dimorphism of miRNA expression: a new perspective in understanding sex bias of autoimmune diseases. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management. 2014 Mar 3;10:151-63. PMID: 24623979
  2. Dai, R, McReynolds, LeRoith, T, Heid, B, Liang, Z, Ansar Ahmed, S. Sex differences in the expression of lupus-associated miRNAs in splenocytes from lupus- prone NZB/WF1 mice. BMC Biology of Sex Differences. 2013 Nov 1;4(1):19. PMID: 24175965
  3. Khan D, Cowan C, Ansar Ahmed S. Estrogen and Signaling in the Cells of Immune System. Advances in Neuroimmune Biology. 2012; 3(1):1–21.
  4. Dai R, Ansar Ahmed S. MicroRNA, a new paradigm for understanding immunoregulation, inflammation, and autoimmune diseases. Translational Research. 2011;157(4):163-79. PMID: 21420027
  5. Dai R, Zhang Y, Khan D, Heid B, Caudell D, Crasta O, Ansar Ahmed S. Identification of a common lupus disease- associated microRNA expression pattern in three different murine models of lupus. PLoS ONE. 2010;5(12):e14302. PMID: 21170274
  6. Khan D, Dai R, Karpuzoglu E, Ansar Ahmed S. Estrogen increases, whereas IL-27 and IFN-gamma decrease, splenocyte IL-17 production in WT mice. European Journal of Immunology. 2010;40(9):2549-56. PMID: 2062354.
  7. Dai R, Phillips RA, Karpuzoglu E, Khan D, Ansar Ahmed S. Estrogen regulates transcription factors STAT-1 and NF- kappaB to promote inducible nitric oxide synthase and inflammatory responses. Journal of Immunology. 2009;183(11):6998-7005. PMID: 19890039
  8. Karpuzoglu E, Phillips RA, Dai R, Graniello C, Gogal RM, Ansar Ahmed S. Signal transducer and activation of transcription (STAT) 4beta, a shorter isoform of interleukin-12-induced STAT4, is preferentially activated by estrogen. Endocrinology. 2009;150(3):1310-20. PMID: 18988675
  9. Dai R, Phillips RA, Zhang Y, Khan D, Crasta O, Ansar Ahmed S. Suppression of LPS-induced Interferon- gamma and nitric oxide in splenic lymphocytes by select estrogen- regulated microRNAs: a novel mechanism of immune modulation. Blood. 2008;112(12):4591-4597.PMID: 18791161
  10. Dai R, Phillips RA, Ansar Ahmed S. Despite inhibition of nuclear localization of NF-kappa B p65, c-Rel, and RelB, 17-beta estradiol up-regulates NF-kappa B signaling in mouse splenocytes: the potential role of Bcl-3. Journal of Immunology 2007;179(3):1776-83. PMID: 17641044

Dr. Ansar Ahmed’s publications cited in over 500 publications

Cited in 729 other publications (ISI Web of Knowledge):

Ansar Ahmed S, Gogal RM, Walsh JE. A new rapid and simple non-radioactive assay to monitor and determine the proliferation of lymphocytes: an alternative to 3H-thymidine incorporation assay. Journal of Immunological Methods. 1994;170(2):211-224.

Cited in 505 other publications (ISI Web of Knowledge):

Ansar Ahmed S, Penhale WJ, Talal N. Sex hormones, immune responses, and autoimmune diseases. Mechanisms of sex hormone action. Am J Pathol. 1985;121(3):531-51.