Yihe Chen, M.D.

Harvard Medical School

Instructor in Ophthalmology

Schepens Eye Research Institute of Massachusetts Eye and Ear


Research Summary

Center/Research Area Affiliations

Research Summary

Dr. Chen completed his postdoctoral training in ocular immunology at Mass. Eye and Ear with Reza Dana, MD, MSc, MPH. His research is focused on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that drive ocular autoimmune and inflammatory disorders. In particular, he aims to define the pathogenic role of memory T cells in a range of ocular autoimmune diseases, and develop novel immunomodulatory treatments that target these key pathogenic cells.

Download his CV [PDF] for more information


Certificate, Pre-medical Courses, Peking University, China (2001)

MD, Peking Union Medical College, China (2006)

Postgraduate Training 

Research Fellowship, Ocular Immunology, Schepens Eye Research Institute of Mass. Eye and Ear (2014)


2015: ARVO Annual Meeting Travel Grant, National Eye Institute

2010, 2012, 2013: ARVO Annual Meeting Travel Award, Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society

His Story

Immunity protects people from disease and infection; however, excessive inflammation or aberrant immune response can lead to tissue or organ damages. A variety of ocular disorders have an etiological component of inflammation and immunity, such as allergic eye disease, dry eye disease, and uveitis.  Dry eye disease (DED), a highly prevalent condition, is the most frequent non-refractory reason leading patients to seek professional eye care. The therapeutic strategies have been restricted to symptomatic relief with various types of lubricating drops and ointments, and there remains an unmet need for novel immunomodulatory agents that focus on targeting specific components of the underlying immune response. Dr. Chen's past work has dramatically increased the understanding of the precise roles of immunity in DED by establishing the principal role of autoimmunity in actively mediating the chronicity of the disease. Particularly, a unique “memory T cell” population was identified and characterized in chronic DED, and critical factors maintaining these memory T cells were subsequently revealed.  These findings demonstrate targeting memory T cells as an effective novel therapeutic strategy in ocular immunoinflammatory diseases.

Currently, his research is focused on immunologic memory in eye diseases. Specifically, he aims to define the pathogenic role of memory T cells in a broader range of ocular autoimmune diseases, and develop novel immunomodulatory treatments that target these important cells.


Research Interests

  • Mechanisms of ocular immune and inflammatory diseases

Role of immunological memory in ocular autoimmune diseases

The goal of the research project is to explore the autoimmune mechanisms in chronic uveitis and develop novel therapeutic strategy targeting memory T cells for the disease, by developing a mouse model for chronic autoimmune uveitis. 



11 (Google Scholar, as of January 2018)

Selected Publications

Dr. Chen has published more than 10 peer-reviewed articles. Below is a list of selected publications. View his publications on PubMed.

Chen Y, Chauhan SK, Shao C, Omoto M, Inomata T, Dana R. IFN-γ-Expressing Th17 Cells Are Required for Development of Severe Ocular Surface Autoimmunity. Journal of Immunology. 2017; 199:1163-1169.

Chen Y, Chauhan SK, Tan X, Dana R. Interleukin-7 and -15 maintain pathogenic memory Th17 cells in autoimmunity. Journal of Autoimmunity. 2017; 77:96-103.

Tahvildari M, Omoto M, Chen Y, Emami-Naeini P, Inomata T, Dohlman TH, Kaye AE, Chauhan SK, Dana R. In Vivo Expansion of Regulatory T Cells by Low-Dose Interleukin-2 Treatment Increases Allograft Survival in Corneal Transplantation. Transplantation. 2016; 100:525-532.

Chen Y, Chauhan SK, Lee HS, Saban DR, Dana R. Chronic Dry Eye Disease is Principally Mediated by Effector Memory Th17 Cells. Mucosal Immunology. 2014; 7:38-45.

Chen Y, Chauhan SK, Lee HS, Stevenson W, Schaumburg CS, Sadrai Z, Saban DR, Kodati S, Stern ME, Dana R. Effect of Desiccating Environmental Stress versus Systemic Muscarinic AChR Blockade on Dry Eye Immunopathogenesis. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. 2013; 54:2457-2464.

Chen Y, Chauhan SK, Saban DR, Sadrai Z, Okanobo A, Dana R. Interferon-γ-Secreting NK Cells Promote Induction of Dry Eye Disease. Journal of Leukocyte Biology. 2011; 89:965-972.


A Novel Therapeutic Approach Targeting Memory TH17 Cell-Mediated Ocular Immunoinflammatory Diseases. 
Chen Y, Chaunhan SK, Dana R. Application# 62/275,946US; submitted: 1/7/2016.