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An epigenetic approach to understanding effects of malnutrition on immune system development and function

Developing countries are facing an emerging health concern known as the double burden of malnutrition (DBM). Children are exposed to low nutrient malnutrition early in life and then as their society gains access to more food options that are typically processed and higher in fat, they are predisposed for obesity and early onset of non-communicable diseases. The dichotomy of malnourishment through wasting coupled with obesity can exist within an individual, household, and/or community and places a large burden both financially and on overall health outcomes. With the earlier onsets of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, there is evidence of immune system dysregulation. Using a mouse model, we are looking at the changes that occur within immune cell populations and around the genome to better understand the effects of the DBM on immune system development and what is causing the observed disease phenotypes.