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Delta Omega

2016 Poster Competition Winners


Ruth Geller1st Place - Ruth J. Geller (Overall Winner) (MHS student)

Title: The Association Between Perinatal Intimate Partner Violence and Small for Gestational Age (SGA) Birth in the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, 2004-2011 

Background: An estimated 10.2% of women experience physical intimate partner violence (IPV) during pregnancy,1 resulting in negative neonatal outcomes including low birthweight and premature birth.2-8 Less is known about the effect of perinatal IPV on small for gestational age (SGA) birth. SGA birth is associated with infant morbidity and mortality.9 The objective of our research is to understand the relationship between perinatal IPV and SGA birth.

Conclusions: The effect of perinatal IPV on delivering a neonate classified as SGA is mediated by sustained smoking during pregnancy. The elevated level of sustained smoking during pregnancy associated with perinatal IPV highlights the importance of screening for and preventing perinatal IPV. Additionally, smoking cessation interventions during pregnancy should address the barrier posed by IPV.


Andreea M. Rawlings2nd Place - Andreea M. Rawlings (Ph.D. student)

Title: Glucose Peaks and Risk of Dementia Among Persons with Diabetes: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study

Introduction: The risk of dementia increases with increasing levels of hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), a measure of average blood glucose. However the association between glucose peaks and dementia in persons with diabetes is unclear. 1,5-anhydroglucitol (1,5-AG) is a novel biomarker of glucose peaks, with low levels reflecting blood glucose concentrations that exceed the renal filtration threshold (~180 mg/dl) over the prior 7-10 days.

Conclusions: Short-term glucose peaks were associated with higher risks of dementia among adults with diabetes, independent of HbA1c and other dementia risk factors. More studies are needed to determine if targeting glucose peaks, in addition to average glucose, among persons with diabetes can reduce the risk of dementia. 


Rebecca M. Nachman3rd Place - Rebecca M. Nachman (Postdoctoral Student)

Title: Joint Effects of Ambient PM2.5 Exposure and Maternal Pre-Pregnancy Obesity on Childhood Overweight or Obesity in the Boston Birth Cohort

Background: Previous studies suggest that maternal obesity in pregnancy and air pollution exposure during childhood and adolescence are positively associated with increased risk of childhood overweight or obesity (COWO). The role of prenatal exposure to the fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and its joint effect with mother's pre-pregnancy body mass index (MPBMI) on COWO remain unclear.

Conclusions and Relevance: We demonstrate that both early-life PM2.5 exposure and MPBMI significantly increased their risk of COWO, and high MPBMI significantly enhanced the adverse effect of PM2.5 at concentrations near or below the U.S. federal PM2.5 standard.



Nicola Diny1st Place - Nicola Diny (MHS student)

Title: The eotaxin-CCR3 Pathway is Required for Eosinophil Trafficking to the Heart in Eosinophilic Myocarditis

Abstract: Cardiac manifestations are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with eosinophilassociated diseases. Eosinophils have been proposed to play a pathologic role in the heart. Nevertheless, the pathways that recruit eosinophils to the heart have not been described. In IFNγ-/- IL- 17A-/- mice, induction of experimental autoimmune myocarditis results in a Th2-driven, eosinophilic inflammation. IFNγ-/- IL-17A-/- mice had much higher expression of the eosinophil-attracting chemokines eotaxin-1 (Ccl11) and eotaxin-2 (Ccl24) in the heart than wildtype mice. Genetic ablation of the eotaxin receptor CCR3 resulted in a dramatic decrease in heart infiltrating eosinophils. Adoptive transfer experiments with CCR3+/+ or CCR3-/- eosinophils into eosinophil-deficient ΔdblGATA1 or IFNγ-/- IL-17A-/- ΔdblGATA1 recipients showed that two conditions have to be met for efficient eosinophil trafficking to the inflamed heart: high eotaxin expression in the heart and expression of CCR3 by eosinophils. We identified the source of cardiac eotaxins by RT-PCR of FACS sorted heart cells and by immunohistochemistry. Eotaxin-1 was mainly produced by cardiac fibroblasts with interstitial localization in the heart. In vitro culture of cardiac fibroblasts with IL-4 and IL-13 induced eotaxin-1 expression. In contrast, eotaxin-2 was expressed by multiple inflammatory cell types, located at inflammatory foci, and substantial expression was only found in mice lacking IFNγ and IL-17A during myocarditis. In conclusion, eosinophil trafficking to the heart is dependent on the eotaxin-CCR3 pathway in mice with eosinophilic myocarditis. Blockade of this pathway may be a useful therapeutic approach to prevent eosinophil-mediated heart damage.


Jingru Fang2nd Place - Jingru Fang (ScM Student)

Title: Proteins Derived from a Mosquito Midgut Chromobacterium Isolate Inhibit Dengue Virus Replications in vitro

Abstract: Dengue virus (DENV) is the most important arboviral pathogen transmitted by Aedes sp. mosquitoes and the causative agent of dengue fever. Currently, there is no therapeutic drug against dengue. In the context of DENV and microbess inhabiting the same environment in the mosquitos’ midgut, previous studies, done by our lab, has identified a novel bacterium from Aedes mosquito midgut microbiota, Chromobacterium (Csp_P), with proved impact on vector competence for DENV. Interestingly, further study have shown a potent inhibition of Csp_P liquid culture filtrate (<0.22 um) against DENV in vitro. The aim of this study is to characterize anti-dengue molecule(s) derived from Csp_P. Plaque reducing assays have been used as a primary tool to quantify anti-DENV activity, in which we pre-incubate bacterial extracts with DENV prior to infection. Results from thermostability tests of a Csp_P culture supernatant demonstrated a significant loss of anti-DENV activity at temperatures equal to or higher than 70°C. We then fractionated Csp_P culture supernatant by classical protein precipitation method. The protein fraction with molecular weights ranging from 50 to 100kDa preserved the biological effect compared to others. On the other hand, no significant inhibition was observed in cotreatment model, suggesting that direct interaction between virus and Csp_P proteins might be necessary for anti-DENV activity. Virus inhibition was further observed at the attachment stage by manipulating endocytosis at low temperature. Current data suggested that Csp-P protein(s) might be blocking DENV at the viral attachment stage. Our study characterized an important microbial-derived extract with anti-DENV activity in vitro.


Jason Huska3rd Place - Jason Huska (Ph.D Student)

Title: Caspase-Cleaved Bcl-xL Contributes to Thymus Involution

Abstract: Caspase-dependent cell death (i.e. apoptosis) is an essential process that removes damaged or senescent cells to limit diseases such as cancer and autoimmunity. Regulating which cell is removed and when is critical and is largely executed by the Bcl-2 protein family. Within this family are 3 classes: those that are anti-apoptotic (e.g. Bcl-xL) and combat proapoptotic Bcl-2 members (e.g. Bax, Bak), and those that contain only the family defining BH3 motif (BH3-only). If a cell is provided with a death signal, BH3-only proteins are induced and either bind antiapoptotic Bcl-2 members, relieving them from Bax and Bak, or directly activate Bax and Bak. When activated, Bax and Bak permeabilize mitochondrial outer membranes resulting in the release of mitochondrial proteins into the cytosol where they facilitate caspase activation. Once activated, caspases cleave numerous cellular proteins leading to cellular destruction. Once apoptosis begins, anti-apoptotic Bcl-xL serves as substrates for caspases. Cleavage not only inhibits its anti-death role, but transforms it into potent a killer, amplifying the apoptotic cascade. To probe the in vivo consequence of cleaved Bcl-xL, we generated a mouse in which the two caspase cleavage sites were mutated, rendering Bcl-xL uncleavable. We found that mice expressing caspase-resistant Bcl-xL appear to resist the normal process of age-related thymic involution. The thymus is responsible for producing mature T-cells which are critical for immune responses and protection from invading pathogens. During normal aging, the thymus becomes progressively smaller and is replaced by adipose tissue. Involution severely compromises new T-cell production and is believed to contribute to disease susceptibility in the elderly. Because there are multiple stages of T-cell development associated with death, we have sought to determine where in thymocyte selection caspase cleavage of Bcl-xL occurs and how this leads to thymic involution. In addition, we are probing the immunological consequences of maintaining thymic architecture late in life by infecting mice with bacterial and viral pathogens.



Julia Raifman1st Place - Julia Raifman (Postdoctoral Student)

TitleState Marriage Equality and Reduced Adolescent Suicide Attempts

Background: Suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents aged 15 to 24 years in the United States. Sexual minority adolescents account for a disproportionate burden of suicide attempts, which may be partly due to structural and social stigmatization of their sexuality. We investigated the relationship between state same-sex marriage policies, which reduced structural discrimination against sexual minorities, on adolescent suicide attempts based on the natural experiment created by variation in the years when states enacted same-sex marriage policies.

Conclusion: State-level marriage equality was associated with reduced suicide attempts among all adolescents, particularly sexual minority adolescents. These findings provide empirical evidence for the link between reduced structural discrimination and improved health.


Pamela Trangenstein2nd Place - Pamela Trangenstein (Ph.D. Student)

Title: Mapping the Unknown: A Conceptual Framework for Alcohol’s Harms to Others Among US College Students

Description: Alcohol-related harms research traditionally focuses on harms or costs borne by the drinker. However, drinkers necessarily impact their surroundings because alcohol consumption is inherently social. Therefore, estimates of alcohol-related harms are overly conservative because they exclude the morbidity, mortality, and cost of persons around the drinker. Alcohol-related harms to others are changes attributable to alcohol that occur in an individual’s social behavior, interactions, or environment. International research suggests young adults in higher education institutions are at increased risk of experiencing harms to others. Building on this research base, this poster presents a conceptual framework of harms to others experienced by US college students. The framework is grounded in Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory and structured around two key proximal determinants of alcohol’s harms to others: the victim’s relationships with heavy drinkers and the victim’s drinking pattern. The framework suggests social network interventions and campus or national policies are potential solutions to prevent alcohol’s harms to others.


Teresa E. DeAtley3rd Place - Teresa E. DeAtley (MPH Student)

Title: Compliance with Uruguay's "Single Pack" Presentation Law

Introduction: Varying the pack color, design, descriptors, flavor and brand variant names on cigarette packs is a technique used by tobacco companies to target a multitude of consumers. The marketing of brand variants is problematic because it attracts youth to smoking and supports existing user’s behaviors by allowing individuals to find a product that meets their specific preferences.Uruguay, a middle-income country in South America, is the only country requiring cigarette companies by law to adhere to a single brand variant and pack presentation per brand family. 

Conclusion: This study seeks to examine compliance with Uruguay's single pack presentation law by determining the variety of tobacco packs available at local retailers. We will also learn which brand variant tobacco companies have chosen to sell within this restricted market.