Bristol-Plymouth Regional Technical Vocational School
Taunton, MA

Simone Nish and Julianne Riggs
Food Allergy Science Initiative

Dendritic cells are an important part of the human immune system. When dendritic cells encounter a microorganism that can cause disease, they become activated and begin to express a multitude of proteins that are embedded in their cell membrane or secreted. These proteins alert the immune system to danger and initiate the activation of other cell types in the immune system, such as T cells, to create a longer-term response to the invader. Mikaela studied the activation of dendritic cells in response to peanut allergens in order to better understand their immunoresponse. By using flow cytometry, ELISA, and qPCR, Mikaela measured the expression of several biomarkers for immunoactivation, such as MHCII, CD40, and CD86. Biomarkers corresponding to ‘active’ dendritic cells are strongly expressed in cell cultures that have been exposed to peanuts, suggesting that peanuts are being viewed as a threat by the immune system. Mikaela’s results will help us to further understand the mechanism of how peanut allergens activate the immune system.

Of the BSSP program, Mikaela said: “I decided to apply to the Broad because I kept hearing how incredible and what an amazing opportunity it was and I just knew I couldn’t miss out on that." Mikaela also felt that "the people are all incredibly friendly and the research is very interesting, so it's fun to not only explore your specific project but also learn about what everyone else around you is doing."