Sepideh Dolatshahi, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Virginia, is leading a groundbreaking study that explores the field of systems immunology in the context of pregnancy. Dolatshahi’s research focuses on unraveling hidden patterns within the human immune system, using computational modeling, systems serology, and advanced spatial analysis techniques to investigate the interactions between the maternal immune system and the developing fetus. The ultimate goal is to understand how these interactions contribute to early childhood immunity and to design personalized vaccination strategies for vulnerable patients.
Babies are born with compromised immune systems and rely on antibodies transferred from their mothers during pregnancy to protect them against infections. Vaccinating pregnant women can increase the levels of specific antibodies passed on to the baby, offering them a degree of immunity. However, the range of vaccines available to pregnant women is limited, leaving infants susceptible to various pathogens.
To address this issue, Dolatshahi and her team have developed a computer-based predictive model that simulates maternal vaccination and placental antibody transfer. This model serves as a valuable tool for testing different vaccination strategies in silico, reducing the need for costly and time-consuming clinical trials. The ultimate aim is to accelerate the development of immunization protocols that can be tailored to individual patients, particularly those with genetic complications or compromised immune systems.
One of the key focuses of Dolatshahi’s research is understanding how the placenta regulates the transfer of antibodies from mother to baby. The placenta acts as a protective barrier, allowing only certain substances to reach the fetus. However, the specific mechanisms by which this transfer occurs are not well understood. Through spatial analysis tools, Dolatshahi and her team aim to uncover the processes and interactions responsible for transmitting protective antibodies to the baby. This knowledge will help identify new targets for maternal vaccines, maximizing their efficacy.
It is important to note that the mother’s immune system undergoes significant changes during pregnancy. Therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach to vaccination may not be effective. Dolatshahi and her team aim to identify key variables that affect placental antibody transfer, leading to variations in antibody levels among different populations. By understanding these factors, doctors can identify patients who may benefit from specially designed vaccines to support their baby’s immune system. This research also has broader implications, as it sheds light on the biological and socioeconomic factors that contribute to immune-related pregnancy complications, such as preterm birth and preeclampsia.
Dolatshahi’s work represents a significant milestone in understanding how maternal antibodies pass through the placenta and provide protection to newborns. Additionally, her research offers valuable insights into the immune system’s behavior during pregnancy, paving the way for further advancements in this critical field. By uncovering the dynamics of maternal immune responses, Dolatshahi’s work has the potential to improve early childhood immunity and reduce the occurrence of immune-related pregnancy complications.
Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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