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Research groups

Dr Carla Cohen

Postdoctoral fellow

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory arthritis affecting 1-2% of people in the UK.  It is a polygenic disease, with over 40 associated genetic loci identified by genome-wide association studies.  My research focus is to determine which particular single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) play a causative role in the pathogenesis of AS.  At present I am studying SNPs that lie between IL23R and IL12RB2, and which likely have a regulatory function.  My research involves looking at which genes are regulated by these SNPs and identifying the molecular mechanisms involved. Understanding these regulatory mechanisms may lead to the development of novel therapies for this debilitating condition.

I completed my DPhil at Oxford and went on to a postdoctoral position with Prof Dixie Mager, where I studied regulatory elements involving transposable elements, in Vancouver, Canada.  During that time I developed an interest in epigenetic regulation which led me to return to Oxford and join Prof Wordsworth’s research group. 

I am funded on a grant from Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and recently obtained an award from the University of Oxford Returning Carers’ Fund.


Roberts AR, Vecellio M, Cortes A, Knight JC, Cohen CJ, Wordsworth BP. Investigation of a possible extended risk haplotype in the IL23R region associated with ankylosing spondylitis. Genes Immun. 2017 Mar;18(2):105-108

Roberts AR, Vecellio M, Chen L, Ridley A, Cortes A, Knight JC, Bowness P, Cohen CJ, Wordsworth BP. An ankylosing spondylitis-associated genetic variant in the IL23R-IL12RB2 intergenic region modulates enhancer activity and is associated with increased Th1-cell differentiation. Ann Rheum Dis. 2016 Dec;75(12):2150-2156

Cohen CJ, Crome SQ, MacDonald KG, Dai EL, Mager DL, Levings MK.  Human Th1 and Th17 cells exhibit epigenetic stability at signature cytokine and transcription factor loci. J Immunol. 2011 Dec 1;187(11):5615-26

Cohen CJ, Babovic S, Dai EL, Mager DM.  Placenta-specific expression of IL2RB is driven from a transposable element. J. Biol Chem, 2011 Oct: 286:35545-35552

Cohen CJ, Forzan M, Sproat B, Pantophlet R, McGowan I, Burton D, James W.  An aptamer that neutralizes R5 strains of HIV-1 binds to core residues of gp120 in the CCR5 binding site.  Virology 2008; 381(1):46-54.