Why Study Vitamin A Deficiency?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Widely acknowledged as a key to overall health, the food we eat affects our bodies in ways that are not always clear, all the way down to the molecular level.

Ph.D. student Sean Spencer and colleagues at the IRP work towards understanding how aspects of diet affect immunity and disease, with a focus on vitamin A deficiency, one of the most prevalent nutrient deficiencies in the world and commonly associated with various health conditions, including poor vaccine response, diarrheal disease, and malnutrition.

After isolating immune cells from the gastrointestinal tract, Sean and his collaborators use whole organism modeling to better understand how the cells respond in the absence of vitamin A. The researchers also examine whether adding individual dietary elements increases vaccine response and immune function in those cells, potentially laying a foundation for improved health outcomes in vitamin A-deficient people encountering infection or disease.

Hear directly from Sean about his research in the video below:

And check out the IRP “Research in Action” story on microbiome studies in the lab of Sean’s mentor, Dr. Yasmine Belkaid.