Connie Mulligan (University of Florida)
A host of genetic and environmental factors, including sociocultural influences, impact complex phenotypes in humans. Based on this definition, complex phenotypes include complex diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and mental illness, as well as more broadly defined conditions such as stress and racial health disparities. My research takes a uniquely anthropological perspective and integrates biological and cultural factors to examine human health and disease. Specifically, I use genetic, epigenetic, biological and cultural data to investigate a diverse set of complex phenotypes. I’m interested in conditions with a stress component since stress is highly prevalent in our society and has many different facets, including genetic, biological, cultural and psychological aspects. I’m interested in racial health disparities since they, too, are prevalent in our society and have both genetic and environmental components. Epigenetic modifications may also play a role in complex phenotypes, possibly with an evolutionary component, by altering gene expression in response to events that happen during one’s lifetime. I’ll discuss two projects in my lab that 1) examine the genetic and cultural risk factors for hypertension in African Americans living in Tallahassee, FL and 2) investigate an epigenetic mechanism to mediate the effect of maternal stress on maternal and infant health in the Democratic Republic of Congo.