The National Institutes of Health Common Fund supports unusually innovative research from early career investigators with the High-Risk, High-Reward Research program. Assistant professor of psychology Katherine Ehrlich received a New Innovator award in the program to determine whether stressful life experiences have more immediate effects on children’s health:
The $2.3 million Director’s New Innovator Award from the NIH Common Fund’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program will implement a new approach to examine how stress exposure is linked to children’s antibody response to vaccination.
Because the means of analysis used to measure health in adults—blood pressure, inflammation, pre-disease markers, cardio-metabolic function—often show little variability in children, the research team adopted a paradigm used primarily in adult samples—to look at how children’s immune systems respond to vaccination. As a marker of immune function with clinical relevance, the approach is designed to establish a better understanding of the nearer term effects of stress on the health of children.
“Fortunately, most kids are pretty healthy, but one challenge this raises is that it’s difficult to study how social experiences are linked to physical health during childhood,” said Katherine Ehrlich, assistant professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of psychology and principal investigator on the project. “This paradigm will allow us to evaluate the extent to which children’s social worlds ‘get under the skin’ and influence their bodies’ response to vaccination.”
Great interdisciplinary project and important early career support to Ehrlich for work that is already underway. As she explained, terrific mentors and facilities at UGA and the Health Sciences Campus foster an atmosphere for creative research with the collaborative infrastructure to see it through. We're proud of the brilliant young scientists attracted to the hard work of finding solutions; Ehrlich's intuition and tenacity will ultimately help inform better policies for healthier people and communities.