Adrienne Starks, Ph.D.


Biological Sciences 2010

Area of Doctoral Study: Biological Sciences
Undergraduate Institute: Alabama A&M University

Research Advisor: Dr. Jeffrey Leips

Current Position: Founder and CEO,  STREAM Innovations

Description of Research

Senescence, the age related decline in physiological performance, is reflected in a number of traits including fecundity, susceptibility to disease, agility, mobility and stress tolerance. While senescence is observable in most organisms, we know very little about whether the age at onset and rate of physiological deterioration with age has a genetic component. In this study, we investigate the effect of age on innate immune response in Drosophila melanogaster and the extent to which the rate of deterioration in this trait with age is genetically based. We used a panel of 3rd chromosome extraction lines derived from the natural population in Raleigh, NC to screen for genetically based variation in immunosenescence. Mated female flies were challenged with a natural pathogen, Bacillus thuringiensis, during early age (1 week) and late age (6 weeks). This research is designed to test the hypotheses that: (1) genetic variation produces variation in immune response and (2) the rate of decline in immune function with age is genetically based.