Jennifer Welch

Jennifer WelchAddress: VA Bldg. 40 Room 104
Phone: (319) 338-0581 ext. 7602

Mentor: Jack Stapleton, MD

Undergraduate Institution: Buena Vista University

Year Entered Into Program: 2014

Research Description

Over thirty years since the discovery of the virus responsible for AIDS there is still no cure, and 36.9 million people worldwide continue to live with HIV. The AIDS pandemic remains a significant global problem with about 2 million people infected with HIV-1 in 2014 and 1.2 million HIV-infected people died from AIDS-related illnesses the same year. It is estimated that more than 80% of HIV cases result from sexual transmission and semen is the primary vector. However, only about 0.1% of acts of heterosexual coitus with an infected individual result in HIV infection, suggesting that in addition to the protective role of the mucosal epithelium, factors in semen carried by exosomes may impair the infectivity/fitness of HIV infectivity. Exosomes are extracellular vesicles released from a variety of cell types that are metabolically inert, but can act as carriers of metabolic species. We have previously shown that semen exosomes protect against wild-type HIV infection of cells.

My research is focused on:  1.Identification of the factors that mediate the anti-HIV activity of semen exosomes;2. Elucidation of the mechanism of action of the identified factors.   I am also interested in the translational application of my research findings.