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The Levinson Emerging Scholars Program

Kathryn Winglee - Computer Science, Microbiology

Kathryn WingleeKathryn Winglee is interested in infectious diseases, but she is also intrigued by technology and its applications to biological research. As a double major in computer science and microbiology, she hopes to use her skills in both fields to study pathogens and how they cause disease. She began doing research the summer after her high school graduation, building a microfluidic device to perform PCR then studying hepatitis C before joining the Ramakrishnan lab. Her research on tuberculosis in the Ramakrishnan lab, where she has written a program capable of tracking fluorescent objects in 3D, has allowed her to both create and apply new technology to the study of a major global disease. She also has experience as a TA for the general microbiology lab. Her plan is to continue with similar research in graduate school.

Mentor: Lalita Ramakrishnan, Microbiology

Project Title: Changes in Infected Macrophages During Tuberculosis Pathogenesis and Granuloma Formation

Abstract: Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial disease that causes nearly two million worldwide deaths every year. One important characteristic of this disease is the formation of granulomas, aggregations of infected macrophages and other immune system cells, in the infected host. Understanding how granuloma formation in TB infections occurs is vital to understanding this disease. One animal model of TB makes use of zebrafish embryos infected by Mycobacterium marinum, a close relative of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of human TB. Zebrafish embryos are transparent, allowing real-time observation of the course of infection. In previous quarters, software has been created to track fluorescent M. marinum as it is carried inside macrophages during infection. This program will be used to study the movements and characteristics of macrophages during infection. By combining the use of fluorescent M. marinum and host immune cells with this program, the effects of carrying intracellular bacteria on macrophage motility, as well as the characteristics of macrophages that form and maintain granulomas, will be investigated. Finally, these studies will be extended to the effects of different bacterial mutations on macrophages during pathogenesis. The results will provide a better understanding of how pathogenic mycobacteria interact with their host to cause one of the world’s major diseases.