The Abstract: May 9, 2022

This Week @ Gillings: The Abstract

May 9, 2022

Whether you’re local or global, student or alumni, the Abstract’s weekly news digest will help you stay in the loop with our amazing Gillings School community.

Earnest named Gillings School’s director of admissions

Jonathan Earnest

Jonathan Earnest

Congratulations to Jonathan Earnest, MA, CHC, who recently assumed the role of director of admissions for the Gillings School. Earnest came to UNC in 2013 and served as assistant director for Upward Bound and then director of TRIO Programs before coming to the Gillings School in 2017. He first joined the Department of Nutrition as their first academic coordinator and was then promoted to lead academic coordinator as part of the schoolwide student affairs ecosystem in 2019.

“Jonathan has been the recipient of departmental, schoolwide and university staff excellence awards, and he is held in high regard by many colleagues and students,” said Greg Bocchino, MSEd, EdD, senior executive director of academic advising and student affairs. “Prior to UNC, Jonathan worked in the Office of Admissions at the University of South Florida, and, as a result, I know Jonathan is excited to lead and support our admissions team here at Gillings. Please join me in wishing Jonathan all the best in his new role.”

Center for Native Health and UNC Asheville – UNC Gillings Master of Public Health Program join forces

Dr. Amy Lanou

Dr. Amy Lanou

The Center for Native Health and the UNC Asheville – UNC Gillings Master of Public Health program will partner to support each other’s efforts to enhance the health and well-being of individual members and the community of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and people in the Western North Carolina region.

“We are delighted to work with the Center’s Executive Director Trey Adcock and board to strengthen public health teaching and learning in our region,” said Amy Lanou, PhD, program director of the UNC Asheville – UNC Gillings MPH program.

The Center for Native Health will host MPH students for applied learning experiences through the new partnership. Students are required to complete a summer practicum and a culminating experience, usually with a community-based organization, health department, or another local entity. Students working with the Center for Native Health will build knowledge and skills and will contribute to and support the center’s work.

Read the full story online.

Gillings epidemiologists publish new study in PNAS on swine coronavirus

Long Ping Victor Tse, PhD, postdoctoral research associate in epidemiology, and Ralph Baric, PhD, William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of epidemiology, microbiology and immunology, are co-authors on a new study published in PNAS, titled “Genomewide CRISPR knockout screen identified PLAC8 as an essential factor for SADS-CoVs infection.”

The study examined swine acute diarrhea syndrome coronavirus (SADS-CoV), which could have devastating consequences for the human population if an outbreak were to occur.

Using genome-wide CRISPR knockout screening, researchers identified the placenta-associated 8 protein (PLAC8) as an essential host factor for SADS-CoV infection, uncovering a novel antiviral target for CoV infection. The PLAC8-related pathway may also have implications for other CoV infections. Given the ability of SADS-CoV to infect human primary cultures without adaptation, the findings lay the foundation for pandemic preparedness for the potential emergence of SADS-CoVs in response to the One Health Initiative.

Read the full paper online.

Maternal and child health researchers publish new study in SSM Population Health

Dr. Megan Barry

Dr. Megan Barry

Dr. Carolyn Halpern

Dr. Carolyn Halpern

Megan Barry, PhD, recent doctoral graduate of the Gillings School, and Carolyn Halpern, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Maternal and Child Health, are co-authors on a new study published in SSM Population Health, titled “Biomarkers of pre-pregnancy allostatic load and subsequent adverse birth outcomes.”

The study used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) to examine the existence and strength of an association between women’s membership in latent classes defined by patterns of biomarkers of maternal pre-pregnancy health and subsequent infant preterm birth and birth weight. Using person-centered methods and drawing from the life course and Weathering Hypothesis literature, the study team used grouped non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic Black women ages 24–34 into latent classes based on pre-pregnancy biomarkers of allostatic load.

Stratified analyses yielded four latent classes among non-Hispanic White women, characterized by: 1) high blood pressure, 2) high body mass index and waist circumference, 3) high total cholesterol and triglycerides, and low high-density lipoprotein, and 4) low-risk, and two latent classes among non-Hispanic Black women, characterized by: 1) high body mass index and waist circumference, and moderate-risk blood pressure, hbA1c, and c-reactive protein, and 2) low-risk. Allostatic load class membership and other maternal- and infant-level covariates were then included simultaneously as predictors of three separate dichotomous outcomes: preterm birth, macrosomia, and low birth weight in multilevel logistic regression models.

In a separate multilevel linear regression model, the same variables were simultaneously entered to predict continuously measured birthweight. In multilevel, multivariate models, White women in the high-risk body mass index and waist circumference class, as compared to the high-risk blood pressure class, had infants with higher birth weights.

Prioritizing temporality so that allostatic load measurement preceded first birth likely biased the composition of the analytical sample. Additional research is needed to help medical providers and public health practitioners understand the complex biological and social mechanisms underlying inequities in birth outcomes and identify prevention strategies.

Read the full study online.