New CIC Member Carrie Cowardin

Dr. Carrie Cowardin

The Cowardin laboratory, located within the Child Health Research Center at the University of Virginia, focuses on understanding how the gut microbiota during pregnancy and early postnatal life set the stage for lifelong immune responses. Undernutrition and linear growth stunting in the first 1,000 days of life perturb metabolic and immune programming, with lifelong implications for health and productivity. This syndrome is multifactorial and intergenerational; mothers who experience growth stunting are more likely to give birth to stunted children. The gut microbiota plays a pivotal role in shaping the development of both intestinal and systemic immune responses, and stunted children are known to have altered microbial communities and mucosal immunity. Our laboratory has developed a model of intergenerational growth stunting using human intestinal microbiota. We found that microbiota from severely stunted infants transmits defects in growth and immunity to offspring of recipient animals relative to microbio a from healthy infants. Our current research builds off of this work, utilizing this model to study immune recognition of the microbiota, determine critical time points in development that rely on microbial signals, and identify potential alterations in the maternal and offspring immune response that mediate these differences.