Dr. B. Paige Lawrence is a Professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, where she holds appointments in the Departments of Environmental Medicine and Microbiology & Immunology. She earned a B.A. from Skidmore College (1986), where she concentrated in biology and chemistry, and a Ph.D. from the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology at Cornell University (1993). She received specialized training in immunology and toxicology during a post-doctoral fellowship at Oregon State University. Her research addresses problems of human health and how our environment influences our health. Much of her work focuses on the impact of pollutants on our ability to fight infections, such as influenza viruses. Other work centers on understanding how signals from the environment affect proper development in early life, and how these developmental changes adversely impact health later in life. She is a member of the Society of Toxicology, American Association of Immunologists, and American Association for the Advancement of Scientists, and currently serves on the Editorial Boards for Toxicological Sciences, Toxicology, The American Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, and The American Journal of Reproductive Immunology. She provides peer review service to the National Institutes of Health and to other research organizations and agencies.
Dr. Lawrence's expertise is in the disciplines of immunology and toxicology. Studying whether chemicals (e.g., pollutants, pharmaceuticals) affect the way the immune system works is the primary area of her expertise. The immune system is the part of our body that helps us fight infections and detect and destroy tumor cells before cancer gets a chance to take hold. There is growing evidence that many chemicals that are found in the environment adversely impact the development and function of the immune system. In contrast to pollutants, which we generally perceive as 'bad' chemicals, some pharmaceuticals are used to deliberately modulate the immune system in order to treat a disease. Studying how these drugs carry out their function gives us a lot of insight into how chemicals (good ones and bad ones) affect the development and function of the immune system.
She has had a long-standing interest in public outreach and science education. She has served on the Society of Toxicology's Education Committee, sponsored high school biology teachers through the John H. Wallace High School Teachers Summer Research Program of the American Association of Immunologists, and participated in other science education projects. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, hiking, camping and losing herself a really good book.
Environmental signaling, immune function, and cellular development
Environmental signals influence the behavior of cells throughout the body. In some cases this is part of normal physiology, but in other instances environmental signals cue cells to work aberrantly. When this occurs, pathology generally ensues, leading to poorer health. For many chemicals from our environment the mechanisms by which they perturb physiology are largely unknown, and determining these mechanisms forms the basis of most of our research. We have several interrelated projects currently underway.
The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR)
The AhR is a ligand-activated transcription factor that mediates many environmental signals. Its normal function in the body is unknown, but numerous exogenous chemicals bind to AhR, affecting gene expression and cell function. A major focus of our research is to delineate the mechanisms by which the AhR regulates the development and function of the immune system. To accomplish this, we often use influenza viruses, as they are common human pathogens, and because humans exposed to pollutants that bind AhR often have more respiratory illness. We often use the pollutant 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) because it binds the AhR with very high affinity and causes sustained activation. This makes it a powerful research tool, as we can probe AhR-regulated pathways by exploiting the knowledge gained when they are perturbed. Also, TCDD represents a large group of highly toxic chemicals found throughout the world, and daily low-level exposure to them has been linked to impairment of the immune, reproductive, and endocrine systems. Current projects seek to understand AhR's normal role in, and how pollutants impact, the immune system and developing organs, and include the following projects:
• The role of AhR in immune response to respiratory viral infection
• The role of AhR in programming the developing immune system
• The role of the AhR in mammary gland differentiation and lactogenesis
There is now compelling evidence that developmental exposures to chemicals from our environment lead to disease later in life, and our interest in how environmental signals alter the developing immune system extends beyond AhR and dioxin. We have two additional funded projects in this area.
Neonatal oxygen supplementation and respiratory viral infection
In collaboration with Dr. Michael O'Reilly, we are studying the effects of neonatal oxygen supplementation on pulmonary immune function. Premature infants are often given high oxygen supplementation, which has substantially reduced premature infant mortality. However, even as adolescents, these infants exhibit reduced lung function and are more likely to be re-hospitalized due to respiratory viral infection. Using a mouse model, we are currently determining how neonatal high oxygen treatment disrupts the response to respiratory viral infection. Moreover, we are integrating our research findings with studies of immune responses in infected children who were born prematurely, which we hope will help us identify novel therapeutic opportunities for improving the health of children born prematurely.
Developmental immunotoxicity of bisphenol A (BPA)
BPA is used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, and is one of the highest volume chemicals produced worldwide. Existing but very limited data indicate that maternal exposure adversely impacts the developing immune system, and this is a cause for concern. Yet, our current inadequate understanding of BPA's developmental immunotoxicity fetters progress toward comprehensive assessment of the human health effects of BPA. To address this we have started a new project in which we will conduct the most detailed analysis to-date of the impact of the BPA on immune system development and function in the context of animal models of human diseases, such as asthma, influenza, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Faculty Mentoring Award
Sponsor: University of Rochester
Service Recognition Award for Excellence in Mentoring
Sponsor: Women in Toxicology Special Interest Group of the Society of Tox
Outstanding Young Investigator Award
Sponsor: Immunotoxicology Specialty Section, Society of Toxicology
Independent Scientist Award (K02)
Advisor Excellence Award
Sponsor: Graduate & Professional Student Association
Location: Washington State University
National Research Service Award (NRSA) Postdoctoral Fellowship
Sponsor: NIEHS, NIH
Phi Beta Kappa, Skidmore College Chapter
Periclean Honor Society
Sponsor: Honorary Society for academic excellence
Location: Skidmore College
Charlotte W. Fahey Prize for academic achievement in the field of Chemistry
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Germolec DR, Lebrec H, Anderson SE, Burleson GR, Cardenas A, Corsini E, Elmore SE, Kaplan BLF, Lawrence BP, Lehmann GM, Maier CC, McHale CM, Myers LP, Pallardy M, Rooney AA, Zeise L, Zhang L, Smith MT. "Consensus on the Key Characteristics of Immunotoxic Agents as a Basis for Hazard Identification." Environmental health perspectives.. 2022 Oct; 130(10):105001. Epub 2022 Oct 06.
McGraw MD, Yee M, Kim SY, Dylag AM, Lawrence BP, O'Reilly MA. "Diacetyl Inhalation Impairs Airway Epithelial Repair in Mice Infected with Influenza A Virus." American journal of physiology. Lung cellular and molecular physiology.. 2022 Sep 6; Epub 2022 Sep 06.
McCarthy CE, Duffney PF, Nogales A, Post CM, Lawrence BP, Martinez-Sobrido L, Thatcher TH, Phipps RP, Sime PJ. "Dung biomass smoke exposure impairs resolution of inflammatory responses to influenza infection." Toxicology and applied pharmacology.. 2022 Jul 8; :116160. Epub 2022 Jul 08.
Books & Chapters
Chapter Title: Cytotoxic T Cells
Book Title: Comprehensive Toxicology
Author List: N. I. Kerkvliet and B. P. Lawrence
Edited By: David A. Lawrence
Published By: Elsevier Ltd 2010 in Kidlington, UK
Chapter Title: Immune modulation by TCDD and related polyhalogenated aromatic hydrocarbons
Book Title: Immunotoxicology and Immunopharmacology
Author List: B.P. LAWRENCE and N.I. Kerkvliet
Edited By: R. Luebke, R. H. House and I. Kimber
Published By: CRC Press 2006 in Boca Raton
Chapter Title: Cell-mediated lysis
Book Title: Encyclopedic Reference of Immunotoxicology
Author List: B.P. LAWRENCE
Edited By: H-W. Vohr
Published By: Springer-Verlag 2005 in Germany
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