Category Archives: Research

The original antigenic sin: overcoming a barrier to flu vaccination

Emory Vaccine Center researchers are exploring ways to overcome the “original antigenic sin”, a process in which the immune system produces the wrong antibodies after it has encountered multiple strains of the same virus.  Using a mouse model, the team has been able to demonstrate that an vaccine adjuvant can be utilized to overcome the “original antigenic sin” with the flu virus.  For more information about the discovery, please visit:


Undergraduate Research on Immigrant Health Strategies

Emory undergraduate Sandy Jiang recently presented the results of her summer research project at the SURE (Summer Undergraduate Research Program at Emory) research symposium. The SURE program provides research training opportunities for undergraduate students over the summer break. Sandy completed her research under the supervision of Dr. Cassandra Quave and the Center for the Study of Human Health. Sandy’s research project, entitled “A Comparison of Traditional Food and Health Strategies among Taiwanese and Chinese Immigrants in Atlanta”, examined traditional knowledge and practices related to food and health . Sandy plans to continue work on this project in the fall and submit a manuscript for publication.

Abstract from the study:

Introduction: Traditional knowledge (TK) systems can play a crucial role in local health strategies and outcomes, especially among migrant communities. The aims of this study are to (1) compare traditional knowledge and practices related to food and health of Taiwanese and Chinese immigrants in metro Atlanta; (2) evaluate how immigrants adapt to new medicinal frameworks; and (3) document the use of medicinal foods and local substitutes as they relate to human health in these communities.

Methods: Snowball sampling techniques were used to recruit 50 adult informants (≥ 18 years-old) from the Chinese and Taiwanese immigrant communities in metro Atlanta for participation in semi-structured interviews and structured surveys regarding the use of the local flora for medicinal and food purposes. Standard ethnobotanical methods were employed and prior informed consent was obtained for all study participants. Voucher specimens of quoted species were collected for deposit at the Emory University Herbarium.

Results: A total of 44 medicinal and/or “healthy” food plants were cited by informants as being central to their traditional health practices. Taiwanese were more likely to use Eastern medicine, plant their own food gardens, believe in the concepts of Yin and Yang, and use certain medicinal foods more than their Chinese counterparts.

Conclusions: TK concerning medical and nutritional practices of immigrant communities represents a fundamental aspect to the study of human health. Results from studies focused on the documentation and analysis of local health strategies can be used to facilitate better communication, bridging the gap between biomedical healthcare providers and users of Complementary and Alternative Medical (CAM) strategies in immigrant communities.

Dr. Cassandra Quave: Using local knowledge against MRSA

Dr. Cassandra Quave is prominent member of the teaching and research team at the Center for the Study of Human Health, provides information about all things ethonobotany on her personal website, co-creator of the bio-venture start up PhytoTEK, and most recently the recipient of a $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to examine the potential for “Extract 134″, a compound from a European tree, to aid in the treatment of antibiotic-resistant staph.

Dr. Quave, a graduate from Emory College’s programs in biology and anthropology, represents a remarkable story of a young, female scientist who isn’t willing to let life’s obstacles prevent achievement.  To learn more about her research and how she was inspired to pursue a career in ethnobotany, please see her recent profile in Emory’s eScience Commons:

Emory researchers move forward in developing a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease

Dr. William Hu, assistant professor of neurology at Emory University School of Medicine, in collaboration with researchers from Washington University at St. Louis, the University of Pennsylvania, and Bristol Myers Squibb have released the results of preliminary study aimed at developing a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease.  The disease is currently diagnosed through techniques like spinal taps or PET imaging, which can be uncomfortable and expensive for patients.  A blood test could not only reduce costs associated with diagnosis, but potentially offer earlier detection.

These results, based on a cohort of 600 individuals both with and without an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis or mild cognitive impairment, revealed four potential biomarkers of the disease that could be identified in blood samples: apolipoprotein E, C-reactive protein, B-type natriuretic peptide, and pancreatic polypeptide.  For more information on the study results, please visit:

Regulations on school snacks related to healthy childhood weight

In a large scale study examining the relationship between state laws regarding the types of snacks and drinks sold in public schools, researchers found that stronger laws limiting availability of unhealthy snacks were correlated with less weight gain over a 3 year period during late childhood/early adolescence.  For a review of the study, please visit the following website:

Microbiome changes over the course of pregnancy

The role of the microbiome in human health is of increasing interest in the scientific community.  A study led by Dr. Ruth Ley from Cornell University that analyzed fecal samples from 91 women across their gestational period identified that the maternal microbiome changes significantly over the course of pregnancy.  The women’s individual microbiomes became less diverse as pregnancy ensued, though as a group the total number of bacterial species present was greatest during the final trimester.  Additionally, the changes in gut microbiota during each stage of pregnancy were correlated with the degree of fat and inflammation exhibited by the women.

For additional commentary about the study, The Scientist provides a review of the study and interviews with the research team and other subject matter experts.  The scientific article was published in Cell.

Research points to the early detection of lung cancer through a breathalzyer-like test

A joint study conducted by researchers at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology demonstrated the possibility of early diagnosis of lung cancer using a breathalyzer-like test.  The team identified 75 unique breath volatile organic compounds (BVOCs) that were different in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) compared to individuals without the condition.

To learn more about the study, as well as other lung cancer research conducted by the joint Emory University-Georgia Tech team, please read this article by the Emory News Center.

FDA approves truvada for HIV prevention

On July 16th, 2012, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug for reducing the risk of HIV infection. Gilead Science’s Truvada is actually based in part on technology developed at Emory (Emtriva). In Truvada, a fixed dose of Emtriva (Emtricitabine) is combined with Tenofovir. This exciting news for HIV prophylaxis comes shortly after recent FDA approval of the OraQuick test earlier this month for the detection of HIV using an oral saliva swab.

Visit this link to read more about Truvada and HIV prevention:

Global BMI: Where do you fit in?

In recent decades, body mass index (BMI) has been rising globally due to many societal changes, including changes in eating and physical activity habits. Using data from the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine calculated the average BMI for 177 countries and created a tool that enables you to see where your BMI fits in compared with individuals in your own country and others.

The calculator is available through the BBC.


The microbiome: What does it mean for human health?

This past week the Human Microbiome Project released the results of a study examining the genetic code of human microbiota collected for more than 15 sites across the bodies of 242 normal, healthy individuals.  Studies of the microbiome are revealing that the bacteria that cohabitate within and on the surface of our bodies are tied in many ways to our lifespan health, and are expected to offer clues to why health differs for seemingly similar people and reveal critical points at which changes to the microbiome may lead to adverse health outcomes.

For a more detailed review of recent studies of the human microbiome, see this commentary by Carl Zimmer from the New York Times.