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Meghan Koch, PhD

Assistant Professor, Basic Sciences Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Dates of Funding: 07/01/21-06/30/23

Contact Information • Phone: (206) 667-3655

Regulation of white adipose tissue function and energy balance by breastmilk antibodies

Faculty Background: Dr. Koch received a doctorate in immunology in 2010 from the University of Washington. She conducted postdoctoral studies at the University of California, Berkeley from 2011 to 2018, when she accepted a position as an assistant professor in the Basic Sciences Division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Dr. Koch’s group studies maternal-offspring interactions, focusing on immunity, metabolism and the microbiota.

Project Description: Accumulating epidemiological studies link breastfeeding with long-term metabolic health, yet the mechanisms underlying this association remain unclear. Using a mouse model system, Dr. Koch’s group recently identified maternal antibodies, transmitted via breastfeeding, as an essential regulator of healthy metabolism in offspring. Offspring that do not receive maternal antibodies exhibit persistent perturbations in lipid homeostasis, including reduced adiposity, impaired glucose homeostasis and insulin resistance. This project seeks to understand the mechanisms linking this early life process (acquisition of breastmilk antibodies) with durable health outcomes (lipid homeostasis and insulin resistance). Breastmilk antibodies coat commensal bacteria in the guts of suckling offspring and mediate the initial host-microbiota interactions in neonates. Dr. Koch’s research has found that in the absence of breastmilk antibodies, neonates mount inappropriate adaptive immune responses to beneficial gut microbes. Owing to the ability of adaptive immune cells to form memory responses that persist throughout the life of the host, she hypothesizes that these dysregulated early life immune responses drive persistent impairments in metabolic function. Here, the Koch laboratory will characterize the metabolic dysfunction exhibited by offspring that don’t acquire breastmilk antibodies and assess the contribution of early life, dysregulated adaptive immune responses toward these long term metabolic impairments.


Jarrad Scarlett, MD, PhD

Acting Instructor of Pediatrics, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Dates of Funding: 2016-2018

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Hypothalamic Mechanisms of FGF1-mediated Remission of Diabetic Hyperglycemia

This proposal focuses on evidence that members of the fibroblast growth factor (FGF) family play a key role in the regulation of glucose homeostasis.


Mauricio Dorfman, PhD

Research Assistant Professor of Medicine
Dates of Funding: 2016

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The Role of CNS CX3CL1-CX3CR1 Signaling in Estrogen-Mediated Protection Against Obesity and Diabetes

This study will determine if estrogen, a potent anti-inflammatory and regulator of feeding, blood sugar and metabolism, uses CX3CL1-CX3CR1 signaling to protect females from diet-induced obesity (DIO). Using genetic and pharmacologic approaches, we will also test the ability of CX3CL1 to prevent and/or treat DIO.


Davene Wright, PhD

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Dates of Funding: 2016

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Parent Attitudes Toward Child Health and Weight

This study aims to quantify parental biases around recognizing childhood obesity-related health risks and identify factors that influence accurate predictions of health risks.