The Finest Tuned Clocks: Biological Rhythms & Epidemics
Speaker: Micaela E. Martinez, Ph.D.
Associate Research Scholar
Dept. of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Life on earth has evolved under day-night and seasonal cycles. These environmental cycles pose organisms with challenges and opportunities. Biological clocks have evolved as a mechanism for organisms to internalize time, giving them them the ability to anticipate, and prepare for, predictable changes in their environment. Circadian clocks, for example, are ubiquitous in eukaryotes, and circannual (i.e., seasonal) clocks are found throughout the animal kingdom. I will present research I have completed, and projects I have underway, to characterize cycles in disease transmission, human physiology, and immunity that have realized effects on human health and disease interventions. I will largely focus on two research areas. First, I will discuss the population-level interface of human phenology and infectious disease ecology, revealing the seasonal clockwork of epidemics using big demographic and epidemiological data, combined with dynamic models and cutting-edge statistical inference methods. Second, I will detail a clinical study I’m conducting through the NIH Director’s High-Risk High-Reward research program, in which I aim to discover the biological rhythms in human physiology and immunology that contribute to cycles of infection, birth, and mortality, as well as the evolution of rhythms in parasites, and thus may be leveraged by evolutionary medicine.
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