May 31, 2017
Image Caption: Woody’s figure, which is included in the Science paper, shows separate PLSDA models (top) and corresponding loadings plots (bottom) with the multivariate cytokine signatures for each phase. Credit: Caroline Woody.
by Kim Roth
It’s not every day that a first-year undergraduate is named a contributing author on a research article, particularly high-impact work published in the prestigious journal Science. Caroline Woody, now a sophomore, has earned that distinction.
Last year, Woody began working in the lab of BME Assistant Professor Kelly Arnold through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. Arnold joined the U-M faculty in 2015 and her lab focuses on computational and experimental approaches to provide new systems-level insights into the immune system. Her goal is to use those insights to help develop new diagnostics and therapeutics.
Knowing Arnold’s work, Aftab Ansari, a pathologist and the principal investigator of a research team at Emory University, contacted her about research he was undertaking. The study was looking at adding an antibody against α₄β₇ integrin to antiretroviral therapy (ART) in macaque monkeys infected with the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV).
The virus is a close relative of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and the researchers hypothesized that the combination therapy could prevent the virus from rebounding after ART treatment was removed.
The researchers chose the antibody because α₄β₇ integrin is believed to help certain immune cells migrate to intestinal tissues. There, the virus propagates in the immune cells during the acute phase of infection.
The macaques treated with ART and the antibody together maintained virologic control even after treatment stopped, prompting the researchers to explore what mechanisms might be involved. The team asked Arnold if her lab would assist.
Enter Woody, who created models to analyze cytokine secretion, or release of cell-signaling proteins, in the macaques infected with SIV before, during, and after treatment phases. Using an approach known as partial least squares discriminant analysis, she discerned distinct cytokine patterns associated with animals who received the experimental treatment versus those who did not. With the data, she created a figure to illustrate her findings, which also was included in the paper.
“It was such a great feeling seeing it come together,” -Caroline Woody
“It was such a great feeling seeing it come together,” Woody says. “Even though I may have played a very small part in the project, being able to have a hand at all in such potentially impactful research was an honor.”
The research indeed has important implications for HIV treatment in humans.
“For a first-year undergrad to learn an analytical approach and apply it in a way that was useful to this cutting-edge research illustrates just how poised engineering undergrads are to make contributions to the medical field,” Arnold says.
Woody continues to work in Arnold’s lab, currently on the early stages of a study on pulmonary fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Although she still has two more years of study until she graduates, she’s already considering graduate school. “This whole experience has really reinforced my love for research,” she says.
Woody and Arnold’s work was published in Byrareddy, S.N. et al. Sustained virologic control in SIV macaques after antiretroviral and α₄β₇ antibody therapy. Science, 354 (6309), 197-202; doi: 10.1126/science.aag1276.