July 10, 2015

Hamilton wins summer fellowship award

Written by
RS13237 jennie hamilton 5RT scrUniversity of Alabama at Birmingham Biomedical Sciences graduate student Jennie Ann Hamilton is one of six people awarded a Gina M. Finzi Memorial Student Summer Fellowship by the Lupus Foundation of America.

“These research awards seek to develop the next generation of lupus scientific leaders by fostering an interest in lupus research careers,” the foundation said in its news release.

Hamilton, from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, works in the lab of John Mountz, M.D., Ph.D., UAB professor of medicine in the Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology. Her research looks at Type 1 interferon induction of B cells that react to the body’s apoptotic cells, a reaction that is one of the hallmarks of systemic lupus erythematosus. More than 50 billion cells die and are safely recycled in the human body every day in the programmed cell death called apoptosis. In lupus, the immune system mistakenly attacks those apoptotic cells.

 “My project utilizes an antigen tetramer based approach to track autoreactive B cells,” Hamilton said.  “The goal is to understand how defective apoptotic debris clearance by spleen marginal zone macrophages skews transitional B cells toward an autoimmune phenotype and how elevated type I interferon signaling in autoantigen reactive B cells leads to abnormal activation of these B cells.”   

This is part of a ‘two-hit model,’ where debris clearance defects as well as type I interferon signaling are both required to activate autoreactive B cells and produce pathogenic autoantibodies.

The other Finzi Student Summer Fellowship recipients are at New York University School of Medicine, the University of Pittsburgh, the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, Michigan State University, and the Lupus Center of Excellence at Allegheny Health Network.

“The Lupus Foundation of America is the only national force devoted to solving the mystery of lupus, one of the world’s cruelest, most unpredictable and devastating diseases, while giving caring support to those who suffer from its brutal impact,” the foundation said in its new release. “Through a comprehensive program of research, education, and advocacy, the Foundation leads the fight to improve the quality of life for all people affected by lupus.”