Paschetta, Carolina Andrea, U. Nacional de Rio Cuarto, Puerto Madryn, Argentina - To aid research on 'Dietary Shifts During Modem Human Evolution and their Effect on Craniofacial Size and Shape,' supervised by Dr. Rolando Gonzalez-Jose
Preliminary abstract: The craniofacial phenotype can suffer changes promoted by epigenetic or environmental factors. Among them, masticatory mechanical stress is perhaps one of the most important epigenetic stimuli which acted during the recent evolution of our species. In particular, technological transition from hunting-gathering is invoked to be concomitant with a significant reduction of masticatory stress. The main objective is quantify the differences in modern human samples with different economic strategies (hunter/gatherers, farmers, etc.), not only in the overall skull morphology, as well as in localized structures, in order to detect common, recurrent changes in craniofacial size and shape due to environmental stimuli. A geometric morphometrics techniques will be used to track these changes on at least three cases of economic transitions on New World populations. Changes observed in concomitance on all the transitions will be, in consequence, postulated as good candidates of plastic structures which probably promoted rapid evolution of modern humans across different adaptive (dietary, nutritional) shifts.
Wander, Katherine Susan, U. of Washington, Seattle, WA - To aid research on 'Immunocompetence and the Hygiene Hypothesis,' supervised by Dr. Bettina Shell-Duncan
KATHERINE S. WANDER, then a student at University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, received funding in October 2009 to aid research on 'Immunocompetence and the Hygiene Hypothesis,' supervised by Dr. Bettina Shell-Duncan. Extensive research in allergy epidemiology has demonstrated that early exposure to infectious agents is associated with lower risk of allergic disease. An evolutionary perspective suggests that such early exposure may affect not only pathological immune responses to allergens, but also healthy immune responses to pathogens as a developmental adaptation, tailoring immune responses to the local infectious disease ecology. To evaluate this hypothesis, this project evaluated associations between early life infectious disease exposure and: 1) allergic disease; and 2) delayed-type hypersensitivity to Candin (an immune response to pathogen antigen, indicating immunocompetence). Consistent with finding in the US and Europe, large family size was associated with lower risk of diagnosed allergic disease. Consistent with the hypothesized developmental adaptation in immune system development, large family size, hospitalization during infancy with an infectious disease, and BCG vaccination scar were positively associated with immunocompetence (delayed-type hypersensitivity to Candin). These results suggest that not only do early infections discourage the pathological immune responses that result in allergy, they also promote healthy immune responses to pathogens, reflecting adaptive plasticity in immune system development.
Abrams, Elizabeth T., U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI - To aid research on 'Variability in Birth Outcome following Malaria during Pregnancy,' supervised by Dr. A. Roberto Frisancho
ELIZABETH T. ABRAMS, while a student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was awarded a grant in September 2001 to aid research on variability in birth outcomes following malaria during pregnancy, under the supervision of Dr. A. Roberto Frisancho. Malaria infections during pregnancy are associated with a number of poor birth outcomes, including intrauterine growth retardation, preterm delivery, and fetal death. Previous researchers had identified malaria-induced immune responses and birth outcomes, but the immune response to malaria could not fully account for the variation in birth outcomes. Abrams focused on a second potential determinant of poor birth outcomes: maternal and fetal iron status. She examined umbilical-cord hemoglobin levels in 33 malaria-infected and 57 uninfected women delivering in Blantyre, Malawi, in relation to maternal hemoglobin levels, malaria status, neonatal inflammation, and birth outcome. Although, as expected, maternal hemoglobin levels were significantly decreased by malaria infection during pregnancy, there was no reduction in cord levels, nor was there any significant relationship between the two. Nevertheless, cord ferritin levels were elevated in the neonates of malaria-infected mothers in relation to increased parasitemia, suggesting fetal immune activation to maternal malaria. Increased cord ferritin was associated with significantly decreased birth weight and gestational length, although maternal and cord hemoglobin levels and malaria status had no effect on birth outcome. The markers of fetal hypoxia that were examined, including erythropoietin, cortisol, and corticotrophin-releasing hormone, were not altered in malaria-infected versus uninfected women. In sum, in this population, cord hemoglobin levels were buffered from the effects of maternal malaria. However, elevated cord ferritin levels suggested fetal immune activation to malaria, which appeared to influence birth outcomes.
Abrams, Elizabeth T., and Julienne N. Rutherford. 2011. Framing Postpartum Hemorrhage as a Consequence of Human Placental Biology: An Evolutionary and Comparative Perspective. American Anthropologist 113(3):417-430.
Abrams, Elizabeth T. and Elizabeth M. Miller. 2011. The Roles of the Immune System in Women's Reproduction: Evolutionary Constraints and Life History Trade-Offs. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 54:134-154.
Abrams, Elizabeth T., et al 2005. Malaria during Pregnancy and Fetal Haematological Status in Blantyre, Malawi. Malaria Journal 4(39):1-8.
Eaves-Johnson, K. Lindsay, U. of Iowa, Iowa City, IA - To aid research on 'A Spirometric and Geo-Morphometric Baseline for the Study of Thoracic Patterning in Fossil Homo,' supervised by Dr. Robert Gary Franciscus
Preliminary abstract: Due to a general, though undocumented, sense that little diagnostic information can be gleaned from them, ribs and overall thoracic morphology have been comparatively understudied relative to other anatomical regions in human paleontology. This study tests the influence of skeletal thoracic shape on respiratory variables (e.g., total lung capacity, functional residual capacity, etc.) using computed tomography (CT), to expand our understanding of modern and Neandertal thoracic patterning. The mixed-sex CT sample consists of 50 respiratorily normal subjects and 10 subjects with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), all between the ages of 20 and 60 (IRB: 199708651). This homogenous, living CT sample is compared with a regionally heterogeneous, mixed-sex skeletal sample from the extremes of human variation (n=134), as well as the Neandertal specimens Kebara 2, Tabun C1, Shanidar 3, and La Chapelle. Preliminary results suggest that, while gross spirometric measures, such as total lung capacity agree well with the predicted model, further study is needed to delineate the skeletal parameters most amenable to comparison for such variables as functional residual capacity. Additionally, comparisons of the Levantine Neandertals with the modern sample fail to demonstrate any significant temporal excursion from the range of modern variability with respect to these parameters.
Greksa, Dr. Lawrence P., Case Western Reserve U., Cleveland, OH - To aid research on 'Demography of a Natural Fertility Population Undergoing Social Change'
DR. LAWRENCE P.GREKSA, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, received funding in November 2002 to aid research on 'Demography of a Natural Fertility Population Undergoing Social Change.' The purpose of this study was to construct a data set which would facilitate examination of the demographic structure and fertility patterns, and particularly the impact of a transition away from farming to wage labor, in the fourth largest Old Order Amish settlement centered in Geauga County, Ohio. Most Amish settlements publish directories on a regular basis which contain substantial demographic information. In order to provide greater time-depth than previously available, data were combined from five directories for the Geauga Settlement spanning the period from 1973 to 2001, providing data on a total of 2729 families. In order to provide a larger context for evaluating Old Order Amish fertility, data on two related Anabaptist groups (Amish Mennonites and New Order Amish) -- both of which tend to be somewhat less conservative than the Old Order Amish -- were also compiled. In particular, the 2000 directory for Amish Mennonites provided data on 4188 families and the 1999 New Order Amish directory provided data on 1875 families. Preliminary analyses of the Old Order Amish data set suggest that the transition away from farming is associated with a small decrease in fertility.
Liebert, Melissa Ann, U. of Oregon, Eugene, OR - To aid research on 'Psychosocial Stress and Culture Change among Indigenous Amazonian Shuar: Integrating Developmental, Biological, and Cognitive Perspectives,' supervised by Dr. Lawrence S. Sugiyama
MELISSA LIEBERT, then a graduate student at University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, received a grant in October 2013 to aid research on 'Psychosocial Stress and Culture Change among Indigenous Amazonian Shuar: Integrating Developmental, Biological, and Cognitive Perspectives,' supervised by Dr. Lawrence S. Sugiyama . Studies among indigenous populations suggest that psychosocial stress is an important pathway through which sociocultural changes associated with market integration (MI) shape human biology; however, few studies have examined how MI influences children's perceptions of the shifting cultural milieu and how these experiences become biologically embodied to impact stress and health. To address these issues, this project integrated methods from biological and cognitive anthropology to elucidate how MI affects the psychosocial stress response of indigenous Shuar children from Amazonian Ecuador. This study examined these relationships among 195 children experiencing varying degrees of MI by measuring two biomarker indices of stress (diurnal cortisol profiles and allostatic load [including measures of cortisol, Epstein-Barr virus antibodies, C-reactive protein, and growth]), cultural models of lifestyle success, and lifestyle data indicative of MI exposure. Findings suggest that children living in households with more modern features and consumer-based goods display higher cortisol levels upon waking. Moreover, children residing in more market-integrated communities maintain beliefs, behaviors, and item ownership that more closely align with the regional model of lifestyle success, potentially due to increased access to specific resources. This project illuminates how MI influences children's experiences of culture change and, in turn, their stress and health.
Patil, Dr. Crystal L., U. of Illinois, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'A Biocultural Examination of the Peripartum Period'
DR. CRYSTAL L. PATIL, University of Illinois, Chicago, Illinois, was awarded funding in April 2008, to aid research on 'A Biocultural Examination of the Peripartum Period.' Fieldwork was carried out from May-August in 2009 and 2010, among subsistence agriculturalists living in north-central Tanzania. Using a mixed-methods ethnographically-informed protocol the project examined: 1) the patterning of the peripartum; and 2) nodes of decision-making around place of birth. The study compared narratives collected from women, traditional and biomedical health practitioners, health administrators and support staff, and community leaders, and observed births in the hospital. Sociopolitical, economic, and environmental conditions were discussed and themes emerging from these interviews were integrated into a community-level survey. Three villages, at various distances from the hospital were included in the survey. Targeted follow-up interviews were conducted to better understand nodes in the pathway of decision-making in birth. In addition to publications, these results will be integrated into policy briefs and presented to the community for use in local policy-making in hopes of reducing maternal mortality.
Wiley, Dr. Andrea S., Indiana U., Bloomington, IN - To aid research on 'Milk Consumption and Child Growth in Pune, India: A Biocultural Investigation'
DR. ANDREA S. WILEY, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, was awarded funding in October 2009, to aid research on 'Milk Consumption and Child Growth in Pune, India: A Biocultural Investigation.' The relationship between milk intake (cow or water buffalo), growth, and levels of Insulin-like Growth Factor I (IGF-I) was investigated in a cohort of approximately 175 rural and urban children from Pune (Maharastra) India. India is the world's largest milk producer and consumption has increased with gains in income and domestic production. Results of previous studies of milk intake and growth have been inconsistent, and there are no longitudinal studies tracking milk consumption, IGF-I and growth across childhood. Milk contains IGF-I, serum IGF-I levels increase after milk consumption, and IGF-I has been positively correlated with both milk intake and height. The cohort has detailed maternal data on diet during pregnancy, and growth and dietary data from birth to 2 years and IGF-I at birth and at 2 years. In this study children were seen twice at age 5-6 years, six months apart. At each visit a complete dietary and health questionnaire was administered, including detailed questions on milk and dairy intake. They were assessed anthropometrically and a blood sample was taken to measure IGF-I. Interviews with caretakers, Allopathic, and Ayurvedic practioners, and reviews of popular media were undertaken to gain an understanding of perceived relationships between milk consumption and child growth/health.
Arps, Shahna L., Ohio State U., Columbus, OH - To aid research on 'Maternal Mortality and Morbidity among the Miskito of Eastern Honduras,' supervised by Dr. Douglas E. Crews
SHAHNA L. ARPS, then a student at Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, was awarded a grant in October 2004 to aid research on 'Maternal Mortality and Morbidity among the Miskito of Eastern Honduras,' supervised by Dr. Douglas E. Crews. Fieldwork was conducted in Honduras (November 2004 - November 2005) to explore maternal health issues in Miskito communities along the Ibans lagoon in the department of Gracias a Dios. Focus groups, structured interviews, and health assessments provided data regarding the cultural, biological, behavioral, and socioeconomic factors that influence maternal morbidity and mortality. To investigate health among living women, reproductive histories and information on current health, household composition, and socioeconomic status were collected during initial interviews with 200 women. Follow- up interviews were conducted to investigate dietary intake, workload/activity, social support, decision-making (autonomy), episodes of illness, and health-seeking behavior. Verbal autopsies were also collected from family members to analyze causes and circumstances of maternal deaths in the region. Women reported 55 maternal deaths. Hemorrhage, usually due to prolonged labor or retained placenta, was the leading cause of death. Poverty, women's lack of autonomy, and inadequate access to health care interact in complex ways to produce compromised health and maternal mortality in Miskito communities. This research demonstrates the need for new maternal health initiatives in the region. It also contributes to an understanding of human adaptability and limits to adaptability in high-risk environments.
Eisenberg, Daniel Thomas Abraham, Northwestern U., Evanston, IL - To aid research on 'Ecological Predictors of Telomere Lengths: A Longitudinal and Cross-population Analysis of Human Biological Diversity,' supervised by Dr. Christopher W. Kuzawa
DAN EISENBERG, then a student at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, received a grant in May 2010 to research on 'Ecological Predictors of Telomere Lengths: a Longitudinal and Cross-Population Analysis of Human Biological Diversity,' supervised by Dr. Christopher Kuzawa . Telomeres are DNA sequences at chromosome ends that shorten with age and are required for proper cell division. Telomere shortening is associated with diminished cell proliferation capacity, which is believed to be a cause of senescence. Given the importance of cell proliferation to blood telomere length (BTL), it has been hypothesized that BTL reflects previous immune system activation and indicates current immune function. Thus BTL could provide a new biomarker of life history allocations and of developmental exposures to infection. Contrary to the shortening of BTL that occurs with age, previous studies have shown that children of older fathers have longer telomeres. By analyzing BTL data from the Philippines, Eisenberg and colleagues showed for the first time that this happens across at least two generations: older fathers not only have offspring with longer telomeres, but their sons also have offspring with longer telomeres. Analyses of how early life infection and growth predicts later BTL are ongoing.
Eisenberg, Dan. 2012. Delayed Paternal Age of Reproduction in Humans is Associated with Longer Telomeres across Two Generations of Descendants. PNAS Early Edition (published online).