Year entered the Ph.D. Program: Fall 2017
Research Advisor: Donata Vercelli
Research Topic: The genetics and epigenetics of the development of asthma in early life.
Lab phone number: 520-626-6387
Lab web page: http://www.bio5.org/about/scientists/donata-vercelli
Studies have shown that exposure to particular farming practices may provide protection against the development of asthma. Two populations, the Amish and the Hutterites, share many characteristics including genetic ancestry, diet, low exposure to pollutants, and more. However, the prevalence of asthma in Amish children is 5.2% versus the prevalence in Hutterite children which is 21.3%. The Amish practice traditional farming with horse or cow drawn plows and barns in close proximity to the home. The Hutterites have embraced modern farming practices, using heavy machinery and living communally away from the barn. (Stein, M.M., et al., Innate Immunity and Asthma Risk in Amish and Hutterite Farm Children. N Engl J Med, 2016. 375(5): p. 411-21.)
Our lab possesses a mouse model to simulate the allergic and immune responses of asthma. Treating the mice intranasally with different extracts from the homes of Amish and Hutterite children, we can identify the differences in responses including (but not limited to) gene expression, T cell and other immune cell production, and airway hyperresponsiveness. This model can also be used to test the “protectiveness” of dust from any location.
You can add anything else you would like other students to know: Right out of high school, I knew I wanted to study genetics. I chose my undergraduate university because it was one of few schools that offered an undergraduate genetics degree, with genetics and epigenetics related coursework throughout all four years. But I had always planned on studying genetics