The Bensinger Lab

Principal Investigator

Steven Bensinger, V.M.D., Ph.D.
Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics
Molecular and Medical Pharmacology
Sherie and Donald Morrison Endowed Chair in Immunology
Director of the Immunology, Inflammation, Infection, and Transplant (I3T) Research Theme
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA


Research and Impact

Dr. Bensinger runs one of the only labs in the world that can assess, in real time, how a cell's lipid manufacturing pipeline is performing. He has found that immune cells profoundly change their lipid consumption during infection, and that this change in lipid architecture is critical to the immune system's ability to protect individuals from infections. Key ongoing studies include defining how these profound chases in the lipid architecture control immunity, and if targeting lipid metabolism increases the functionality of the immune system to fight infections and eradicate cancer. Dr. Bensinger is the theme leader of the Immunology, Inflammation, Infection, and Transplant research theme at the David Geffen School of Medicine.

Education and Recognition

Dr. Bensinger received his veterinary medical degree and his Ph.D. degree in Immunology from the University of Pennsylvania. He completed a thesis on regulatory T-cell development and function in the laboratory of Dr. Laurence Turka, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Peter Tontonoz at UCLA, where he examined the impact of lipid metabolism on T-cell growth and survival. Dr. Bensinger has received several professional honors, including the Sontag Foundation Distinguished Scientist Award and the 2016 UCLA Life Sciences Excellence Award for Outstanding Research. In 2018, Dr. Bensinger received the Sherie and Donald Morrison Endowed Chair in Immunology.

Complete List of Published Work in My Bibliography:

Lab Members

Kevin Williams, Ph.D.

Project Scientist
Scientific Director of UCLA Lipidomics Laboratory
UCLA Department of Biological Chemistry

Kevin Williams received his B.S. from Boston University, majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology. Kevin’s undergraduate research was focused on understanding mechanisms of bulky adduct mutagenesis. Kevin earned a Ph.D. at the University of California, Los Angeles in the laboratory of Stephen Smale, an expert in gene regulation during the inflammatory response. Kevin’s thesis examined the role of NF-κB family members in the regulation of genes involved in coordinating innate and adaptive immune responses.

Kevin joined the Bensinger laboratory in fall of 2009, and has applied his expertise in gene regulation towards understanding the influence of lipid metabolism on brain cancer biology. Specifically, he is focused on understanding how the 1) Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Proteins (SREBP) transcriptionally regulate metabolism and growth potential in glioma and 2) determining if this pathway can be targeted to provide novel therapeutic approaches for glioma. In 2017, Dr. Williams became the Scientific Director of UCLA Lipidomics Laboratory (

Xun "Allison" Chi, Ph.D.

Post-Doctoral Scholar
UCLA Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics

Allison received her B.S. from Zhejiang University, China, majoring in biotechnology. Her undergraduate research focused on how Shewanella Oneidensis develops natural resistance to Ampicillin. She recently joined the Bensinger lab as a postdoctoral scholar after completing her PhD in University of Iowa with Dr. Brandon Davies. Her PhD thesis focused on the regulation of lipoprotein lipase (LPL) function by angiopoietin-like proteins (ANGPTLs). In the Bensinger lab, she is interested in the metabolism of immune cells. Specifically, she will be testing how the metabolic states of certain immune cells can affect their immune states.

Wei Yuan "Wayne" Hsieh, Ph.D.

Post-Doctoral Scholar
UCLA Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics

The regulation of host metabolism by the immune system in response to infectious agents has been the main focus of Wayne's scientific/research career. His primary research theme during his graduate studies directly addresses the key roles of interferon in the regulation of cholesterol metabolism. Prior to these studies, the connection between cholesterol metabolism and immunity was largely unexplored. He and his colleagues collaborated and characterized multiple mechanisms in which interferon can fine-tune cholesterol metabolism in response to viral infection. During the acute phase (<8hr) of infection, interferon regulates cholesterol synthesis through the induction of 25-hydroxycholesterol, a potent inhibitor to the SREBP signaling. Interferon further induced miRNA-342-5p, which further provides long-term modulation of the cholesterol pathway. Inhibition of cholesterol by interferon inhibits the synthesis of isoprenoids, which are required for the trafficking of viral particles. This work demonstrated that the host metabolic pathway is an integral part of host defense against viral infection. Currently,

Wayne is a postdoctoral scholar under the mentorship of Dr. Steve Bensinger. His research investigates how lipid metabolism and mitochondria function modulate macrophage polarization and its anti-inflammatory function. The lab utilizes mass spectrometry and Seahorse XF Analyzers to examine changes in macrophage lipid profile and bioenergetics in response to immune activation. This work is particularly relevant to major metabolic diseases from atherosclerosis to autoimmune syndromes.

Quan "Dylan" Zhou

Graduate Student Researcher
UCLA Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology

Dylan's focuses on how cholesterol metabolism and Type I Interferon (IFN) response are intertwined. More specifically, she is looking at how IFN signal reprograms intracellular lipidomics in a mouse macrophage, how did that change happen, and why does the cell want to do that. Currently she is working on how cholesterol regulates STING, an important signaling protein that triggers Type I IFN production.

Chris Hino

M.D. Candidate
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Class of 2021

Received BA in Biochemistry at Occidental College in 2015

Xen Ping Hoi

Second Year Undergraduate Student
Biochemistry Major

Zena Marie Del Mundo

Third Year Undergraduate Student
Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics (MIMG) major

Former Lab Members

Viet Bui M.D., Ph.D.

Clinical Instructor
UCLA Department of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology

Viet's interest in immunology first began while he was an undergrad at UCLA in the MIMG department working in the lab of David Rawlings. This subsequently led him to the MSTP program at NYU where he completed his doctoral work studying innate lymphocytes under the guidance of Andreas Diefenbach. Viet's continued fascination with the immune system is what influenced him to then pursue a fellowship in rheumatology here at UCLA and what eventually led him to the Bensinger lab. Viet joined the lab with the intention to better understand how metabolic programs, particularly lipid and cholesterol metabolism, may influence the immune response and function of immune cells. He is hoping to utilize monogenic auto-inflammatory disorders as a means by which to further parse out the contribution of lipid metabolism to the engagement and modulation of the immune response. Ultimately, he hopes that a better understanding of immune-metabolic phenomena may provide fresh insight into potential new avenues of therapeutics for auto-inflammatory and auto-immune disorders.

Joseph P. Argus, Ph.D.

Joseph's research focuses on the development of new tools to assess fatty acid metabolism. We apply these tools to cells in culture to measure how fatty acid metabolism changes in response to various normal and pathological stimuli. This information can help determine situations where modulation of fatty acid metabolism can be used therapeutically. Dr. Argus graduated from UCLA in 2017 and is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Ed Dennis at UCSD.

Yoko Kidani, MD, Ph.D.

Yoko received her medical training at the Graduate School of Medical Science, Kanazawa University, Kanazawa, Japan. She completed a residency in anesthesiology and intensive care medicine at Koseiren-Takaoka Hospital, Toyama, Japan and became a staff physician at Ishikawa Prefectural Central Hospital, Kanazawa, Japan in the Department of Anesthesiology. Yoko subsequently completed a thesis project examining the influence of anesthesia on endotoxin-induced shock in rats in the laboratory of Dr. Takumi Taniguchi, at Graduate School of Medical Science, Kanazawa University, Kanazawa, Japan.

After completing her thesis in fall of 2007, Yoko took a position as a post-doctoral fellow in Department of Pathology, University of Pennsylvania working with Dr. Masahide Tone. Her studies in Dr. Tone’s lab at Penn were focused on examining the transcriptional regulation and function of FoxP3 in regulatory T cells. Yoko completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Bensinger laboratory a focused on understanding the impact of lipid metabolism on lymphocyte biology and is currently a physician-scientist with Bayer-Japan.


Autumn York, Ph.D.

Autumn York was a doctoral student in Steve Bensinger’s lab. She graduated magna cum laude in 2008 from the University of Colorado-Boulder with a dual major in Biochemistry and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. Autumn began graduate school at UCLA in the fall of 2008. She is interested in the molecular mechanisms that govern cellular programs in response to external stimuli. In 2015, Autumn York discovered that cholesterol and STING signaling are linked. Dr. York graduated from UCLA in 2015 and is currently an HHMI/ Hanna Grey Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Richard Flavell at Yale University.


Eliza Kronenberger 

Lab Manager
UCLA Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics

Eliza graduated from Lewis & Clark College in 2017 with a degree in Biology. She served as a research assistant at the Oregon Health & Science University, working to integrate electrospray ionization with cryo-EM to advance super-resolution 3D-modeling of macromolecules. Following graduation, she researched the metabolic and physiological effects of pheromone exposure on D. melanogaster at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. As a recent addition to the Bensinger lab, she aims to assist with ongoing projects related to lipid metabolism and immune response, in addition to performing lab maintenance.