IM Ph.D. Student
Third year student in the Ph.D. program
Immunology and Microbiology
Advisor: Dr. Jeffrey Withey
B.S. in Clinical Laboratory Science from Michigan State University
M.P.H. in Hospital & Molecular Epidemiology from University of Michigan
7259 Scott Hall
My research has focused on Zika and Dengue virus infection in corneal cells.
This project is the first to definitively confirm that Zika virus can readily infect corneal cells, while Dengue virus does not. Through immunofluorescence microscopy, we have proven that Zika virus increasingly infects corneal cells in a time dependent manner. Furthermore, Zika virus causes cell death in corneal cells, as evidenced by TUNEL staining. During Zika virus infection corneal cells mount a robust anti-viral and innate immune response. One of the main players in this response is Interferon Stimulated Gene 15 (ISG15), which can lead to antiviral responses in mitochondria, including the removal of damaged mitochondria via the fission/fusion process.
My thesis project is focused on Retinal Pigment Epithelium cells and Human Retinal vascular Endothelial Cells, which line the blood brain barrier. Both of these cells are readily infected by Zika virus, indicating the infection may cross from the eye to the brain, or vice versa. During this infection we have hypothesized that Zika virus can modulate cellular organelles to make the cell more hospitable to infection. One way it may do this is by altering the cellular protein Dynamin like protein-1 (Drp-1), which acts to split mitochondria during the fission process. By doing this, the virus induces elongated mitochondria that create a cellular environment that is metabolically favorable for the host.