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Record ID: 27
Award(s): Excellence in Research Mentoring
Program Affiliation: University Honors Program, SURF Program (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship)
Project Advisor: Ian Lewkowich
Abstract: Allergic asthma is an increasingly widespread disease that affects over 300 million people worldwide. It results from a maladaptive immune response to environmental factors that causes shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing, and coughing. Research shows that asthma development is affected by genetics; however, the prevalence of this disease is increasing at a rate too rapid to be based on genetics alone. Recently, researchers began investigating the impact of environmental factors - particularly those present early in life - on the development and severity of allergic asthma. Human epidemiological data suggest that parental exposures (e.g., cigarette smoke and specific job exposures such as flour processing) may influence allergic asthma in children. Thus, our lab utilizes mouse models to investigate how parental exposure to the allergen, house dust mite (HDM), impacts the allergic responses of their offspring. Our data show that when mothers were exposed to the allergen during pregnancy, their offspring had more severe allergic asthma than those with unexposed mothers. On the other hand, when fathers were exposed to the allergen immediately prior to conception, their offspring had less severe allergic asthma than those with unexposed fathers. These findings further the understanding that genetics, the environment, and the interaction between the two play a significant role in allergic asthma disease, even before conception or during pregnancy. By continuing to investigate the impact of environmental factors, scientists can begin to understand the complex development of allergic asthma, identify the risks of disease, and work to improve patient outcomes.