Carla Cerami, PhD

Lorraine AlexanderResearch Assistant Professor
Curriculum Vitae
REACH NC (Collexis) Research Profile

School of Public Health
Dept of Epidemiology
Campus Box 7435
Chapel Hill 27599-7435
T: 919-843-4384

1993 New York University School of Medicine MD, Medicine
1993 New York University School of Medicine PhD, Immunology
1987 Columbia College BA, Biochemistry

Research interests

  • Global health
  • Infectious diseases
  • Metabolism
  • Nutrition

Research activities

My focus is on two areas of global health research (1) iron at the interface of the host pathogen interaction and (2) trauma.

Iron at the interface of the host pathogen interaction: Our goal is to shed light on the biological principles governing clinical observations that iron deficiency is protective against malaria infection and that iron supplementation increases an individual’s risk of malaria and bacterial infections. It had been previously hypothesized that iron deficiency inhibited malaria growth through iron deprivation, as is the case with other pathogens, however, our work, has shown that the effects of iron deficiency and iron supplementation on parasite growth are due to changes in red blood cell physiology and the age structure of the red blood cell population. We have shown that the malaria parasite has decreased invasion into and growth within red blood cells from subjects with iron deficiency. Additionally, we have shown that red blood cells from subjects who respond to iron supplementation with an increased erythropoietic rate demonstrate increased susceptibility to P. falciparum infection. These novel findings have public health implications on the wisdom of providing malaria prophylaxis during iron supplementation and may serve as a pathway to better understand the relationship between the parasite and host red cell. In addition, we are studying the impact of host iron supplementation on the growth and iron acquisition pathways of common pathogenic bacteria, including E. coli, Salmonella and S. aureus.

Our current work is conducted primarily in The Gambia in collaboration with the Medical Research Council Unit in Gambia (MRC-Gambia) and the MRC-International Nutrition Group. Please see this link for more information about this project: Safer Supplements

Trauma: We focus on the discovery of therapeutic molecules that down regulate the host response to infection and injury. EPO was first described as a renal hormone that stimulates erythropoiesis. We have shown that EPO has neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, synaptogenic, and immunomodulatory activities and promotes the recruitment of stem cells after injury. We are currently investigating the use of EPO derivatives as neuroprotective agents for possible clinical use in traumatic brain injury and other types of neurological injury.

Key publications

Clark M.A., Kasthuri R., Fulford A., Taylor S.M., Prentice A., Goheen M.M., Fisher N., Cerami C. Host iron status and iron supplementation conspire to mediate host susceptibility to erythrocytic stage of Plasmodium falciparum. Nature Communications. 2014 Jul 25;5:4446 PMID:25059846

Clark M.A., Goheen M.M., Spidale, N., Kasthuri R., Fulford A., Cerami C. RBC barcoding allows for the study of erythrocyte population dynamics and P. falciparum merozoite invasion. PLoS One. 2014 Jul 1;9(7):e101041. PMID:24984000

Clark M.A., Fisher N., Kasthuri R., Cerami, C. Erythrocyte stage P. falciparum bioavailable iron content changes with parasite maturation and responds to host serum iron. British Journal of Haematology 2013 Apr;161(2):262-9. PMID:23398516

Taylor S.M., Cerami C, Fairhurst R.M. Hemoglobinopathies: Slicing the Gordian Knot of Plasmodium falciparum Malaria Pathogenesis. PLoS Pathogens. 2013 May;9(5):e1003327. PMID: 23696730

Cerami C., Brines M. Tissue-protection by erythropoietin: Is a safe translation into the clinic possible? Journal of Investigative Medicine. Jul 30 2010 PMID: 20683348

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