Audrey Lawrence

I am a sophomore Biochemistry major (intended Bioethics minor) from Ellicott City, Maryland.  I intend to get my MD/PhD and do cancer research in the future.  In addition to lab work, I am a passionate singer/songwriter and proud owner of two cats (though I officially consider myself a dog person).

My research focuses on ameliorating symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), a prevalent and debilitating disease that affects more than one million people in the United States alone, and currently has no cure.  IBD is a chronic inflammatory condition, proliferated by a dysregulation of the adaptive immune system’s response to nonpathogenic flora in the gastrointestinal tract.  CD4+ T cells, which are critical components of the body’s adaptive immune response, misperceive commensal microbiota in the gut as threats.  CD4+ T cell differentiation and clonal expansion leads to pro-inflammatory T helper cells (like Th17) undergoing a pro-inflammatory response.  In the absence of functional regulatory T cells, which normally suppress adaptive immune responses in the gut, a chronic inflamed state can be reached. Interleukin-10, an anti-inflammatory cytokine, is an important part of this suppressive regulatory step.  Mice deficient in IL-10 have symptoms of IBD, including upregulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines.  Interfering with CD4+ T cell signaling by disrupting the membrane order of their lipid rafts could suppress clonal expansion of these inflammatory cells, thereby ameliorating the severity of the inflammation.  Mice lacking IL10genes will be treated with 7-ketocholesterol, a natural metabolite of cholesterol known to disrupt lipid raft membrane order, to determine the potentially immunosuppressive characteristics of this molecule in vivo.  With the advent of new immunomodulatory biologics, this system will provide a much-needed platform to test the efficacy of this promising agent.