Awarded in 2021
Home Department: Neurosciences, Medicine
Faculty Advisors: Carla Shatz (Biology and Neurobiology), Anca Pasca (Pediatrics – Neonatal and Developmental Medicine), and Catherine Blish (Medicine – Infectious Diseases)
Research Title: Interferon Exposure, Major Histocompatibility Class I, and Human Brain Development
Research Description: Major Histocompatibility Class I (MHCI) molecules are famous for their role in anti-viral responses; however, neuronal MHCIs also play an essential role in synaptic pruning during brain development. These separate roles for the same molecule raise the question of what happens when the two collide, such as when a developing brain experiences a viral infection. The goal of Michelle’s proposal is to investigate MHCIs in developing human neurons, and to examine how virus associated cytokines (interferons) impact the neuronal MHCIs and developing synapses. This study is important as maternal infections are linked to an increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders, and perturbations in neuronal MHCI expression may underlie this risk.