Professor of Microbiology & Immunology and Otolaryngology
Dr. Li has dual professorships in the Departments of Microbiology and Immunology and Department of Otolaryngology. Her research focuses on adapting traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) herbal treatments for allergies and other immune disorders with science and technology. She works with and mentors a team of M.D.s, biologists, and chemists, including junior faculty, post-docs, Ph.D. candidates and Master’s candidates. Dr. Li and her team take the knowledge of thousands of years of observation and refinement of TCM and break it down to individual molecules as visualized by individual peaks on a chromatograph. This allows the team to simplify the complexity of mixtures of plants/herbs, with their inherent variability, by isolating the active components and testing them in preclinical and clinical models of allergy and asthma. Nano-medicine technology breaks through another barrier of clinical application of some natural compounds, specifically the problem of poor bioavailability, resulting in reproducible, dependable, and clinically applicable botanical products. They also explore the mechanisms of the immune system, including bio-markers, and investigate the association of skin and gut microbiome with the TCM effect for improving skin and gut inflammatory conditions. Dr Li also teaches graduate students in Microbiology and Immunology. She is an active TCM practitioner and has joined the ENT faculty practice to promote the integrative use of TCM and allopathic medicine for pediatric and adult patients.
Dr. Li was educated in both TCM and Western medicine initially in China. She was a Visiting Scientist at Stanford in Pediatric Allergy, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship in Clinical Immunology at Johns Hopkins. She then moved to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York as part of the founding team of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute. Dr. Li has investigated the immunopathogenic mechanisms underlying food allergy and novel therapies for treating food allergy. She developed the first botanical investigational new drugs (INDs) approved by the FDA for clinical studies, one for treatment of food allergies and one for asthma. Both these drugs are still being studied and refined. An additional FDA IND has been approved for treating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) with herbal medicine. She is also conducting bio-marker research to try to ascertain food allergic reactivity without food challenges. She has received funding for her research from the NIH, FARE, the Parker Foundation, pharmaceutical companies such as Bayer and Regeneron in the US, and overseas companies from countries including Japan and Norway. Her research has also attracted philanthropic support from patient families and individuals. Her clinical research has included clinical trials in both asthma and allergic diseases such as food allergy, asthma, steroid dependent/additive severe eczema, eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), and IBD, with associated wellness projects involving brain and metabolic health. She has authored more than 100 scientific articles. She is the co-author of the book “Traditional Chinese Medicine, Western Science, and the Fight against Allergic Disease”.
Li has developed many formulas for use in her private clinic for patients who suffer from skin, respiratory, and digestive system disorders, and other conditions, many of whom have conditions resistant to conventional treatment.
Li is a primary inventor on a number of patents of natural products for allergy and inflammation conditions, and has taken on leadership roles in launching a start-up biotech company to link these interventions from the laboratory to the real world.
Li is the founder of the East-West Integrative Medicinal Symposia for Immunology and Wellness-Practice, Science and Technology, now hosted by New York Medical College. This annual symposium has attracted both national and international speakers and attendees, and has attracted support from philanthropists.
1. Biomarker Study of Clinical Effect of Hou’s Mind-and-Body Medical Qigong for Low Back Pain: Real-World Evidence Study
Real-World Evidence Study: According to the NIH, up to one-quarter of Americans experience low-back pain per year. Current best practices for treating chronic low-back pain have yielded only limited success. There are also significant concerns about drug addiction in susceptible individuals following chronic use. Non-pharmaceutical drug therapies such as acupuncture, Yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong showed potential to improve symptoms such as pain and promote wellbeing. However, evidence of efficacy of Qigong and other mind-and-body therapies remain to be established. The Hou’s medical Qigong has helped many patients with difficult-to-treat pain and other conditions. In some cases, the clinical outcomes are beyond what pharmaceutical drug can do. The mechanisms may be due to desensitizing the brain to perceived threats of pain/stimulation, and modulation of local and brain inflammation and other mediators (biological massagers). The goal of this study is to utilize modern research methodology to conduct a real-world evidence study of Hou’s medical qigong therapy on chronic pain including 2 phases of clinical trials, and to use advanced high through-put bio-signature technology to understand the underlying therapeutic mechanisms. With strong reproducible clinical and scientific evidence, Hou’s medical Qigong can eventually be implemented within the academic community and introduced to other health care practitioners in the US. This research will also lead to a breakthrough understanding of the scientific mechanisms underlying Qigong therapy.
2. Biomarker Study of Practice-based Chinese Medicine Effects on Multiple Food Allergy
In this study, researchers will use specific food antigens to challenge basophil cells from food allergy patients and determine their activation using a marker of histamine release. This, together with other biomarkers, will allow researchers to estimate the sensitivity vs tolerance over time. Epigenetic changes allow the researchers to monitor allergy vs tolerance-prone immune status over time. Both techniques only need very small amount of blood.
3. Development of IgE/mast cell suppressing botanical medicines for treating food allergy.
Abnormally and persistent elevation of IgE and activation of mast cells (and basophils and eosinophils) are the key pathological mechanisms involved in food allergy and other immune disorders. In this study, Dr. Li’s team is developing natural product derived from TCM for suppression of IgE and mast cell activation. To protect the natural sources and develop sustainable and conservative resources, Dr. Li’s lab has been collaborating with other experts in natural medicine to develop green sources of analogues of natural compounds that are highly effective and safe as IgE and mast cell modulators.
4. Mechanisms Underlying the Effects of TCM Dietary Supplements on Improving Gastrointestinal Symptoms Related to Eosinophilic Esophagitis: Preclinical Study
EoE is an increasingly common condition and has drastic negative impact on the quality of life. It is also co-morbid with many allergic conditions such as food and environmental allergies and asthma during the allergy march. In this study, researchers will use several in vitro and in vivo models to represent the mechanisms of EoE and help understand how existing TCM herbal formulation and compounds may improve symptoms such as reflux, stomach pain and bowel movement dysfunction in coordination with other biological therapies.