Associate Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Cutting both ways: Antibodies in health and disease
Antibodies confer resistance against infectious diseases and participate in somatic maintenance. Yet they can also deplete amino acid reserves and cause debilitating autoimmune diseases, when they avidly attack host tissue or accrue at such high densities that they damage organs of filtration. Antibodies are thus among the many sharp elements of the "double-edged sword" of the mammalian immune system. To what extent can variation in antibody responsiveness be understood in terms of a trade-off between susceptibility to infectious disease on the one hand and to autoimmune disease on the other? I will address that question in this talk, drawing upon evidence from sheep, mice and people. Such a trade-off could help to explain the evolutionary maintenance of alleles conferring susceptibility to lupus and other antibody-mediated diseases.
Andrea earned an A.B. from Mount Holyoke College and a Ph.D. from Cornell University. She focused on disease ecology for both her undergraduate thesis and her Ph.D. dissertation. As a post-doc and later as an independent research fellow at University of Edinburgh, she tested evolutionary hypotheses about immune responses to co-infections and about predisposition to autoimmune diseases. In 2011, Andrea moved to the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, where she continues to apply evolutionary thinking to host-parasite interactions.