Anna E. Beaudin
2019 Hellman Fellow
Assistant Professor, Molecular and Cell Biology
Project Title: Maternal infection during pregnancy programs lifelong immunity from hematopoietic stem cells
Project Description: My lab seeks to determine how perturbation of the developing blood and immune systems influences the risk for autoimmune diseases across the life span. In adults, the vast majority of blood and immune cells, including those recruited at sites of infection, are constantly generated from blood, or hematopoietic, stem cells (HSCs) in the bone marrow. As a postdoctoral fellow, I discovered a novel population of HSCs that exist only during early life and are responsible for generating distinct subsets of fetal-derived immune cells that persist across the life span. In my lab at UC Merced, we have discovered that simulating an infection during pregnancy specifically expands both fetal-specific HSCs and the immune cells they generate, and causes the abnormal persistence of fetal HSCs into adulthood. These data establish a “critical window” of immune development, during which the phenotype of adult immunity can be shaped at the level of the stem cell by extrinsic inputs. Now, using techniques across immunology and developmental, molecular, and stem cell biology, including fate-mapping models and single-cell analysis, our lab investigates how developmental perturbation, including maternal inflammation and infection, alters the establishment and function of these fetal-derived HSCs and their progeny across the life span. This work will enhance our understanding of the developmental basis for autoimmune disease susceptibility and reveal new targets for the treatment or prevention of autoimmune diseases.