Meghan A. Koch, PhD

Meghan A. Koch, PhD

Assistant Member
Basic Sciences Division


University of Washington, 2010, PhD (Immunology)
University of California, Santa Barbara, 2004, B.S. (Cell & Developmental Biology)

Research Focus

Following birth, a complex community of microbes colonizes the mammalian intestinal tract. A long-standing and important question is how does the neonatal immune system avoid harmful inflammatory responses to these microbes. We’ve shown that maternal antibodies transmitted from mother to offspring ‘instructs’ mucosal immune responses in neonates. My lab is expanding on these findings and working to identify novel pathways through which maternal-fetal interactions regulate neonatal health.

Current Studies

My lab studies how maternal-derived factors regulate neonatal immunity. By definition, mammals are nursed by their mothers following birth. In addition to providing sustenance, milk contains an array of other factors that can help forge peaceful relationships between the immune system and the resident intestinal microbiota. We’ve shown that breast-milk derived maternal antibodies limit mucosal immune responses and are critical for neonatal health. We are pursuing these findings with the following projects:

  • How do maternal antibodies limit neonatal immune responses? Antibodies are multifunctional proteins that can participate in a number of different immune processes. We have developed tools to better understand the mechanisms by which maternal antibodies function in vivo.
  • What are the long-term consequences of lacking maternal antibodies in early life? Mice reared without maternal antibodies exhibit increased immune activation and impaired growth during a specific postnatal period. We are characterizing how these early-life alterations affect metabolic and immune processes in adult animals.
  • How do other maternal-derived factors influence offspring health? Breast milk contains a variety of cytokines, hormones and growth factors that may have significant effects on neonatal physiology. We are developing novel in vivo systems to explore the function of these substances.

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Meghan A. Koch, PhD

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