Sahiti Marella becomes Dr. Sahiti Marella

By Lynn McCain | December 6 2023

Sahiti Marella 500.jpgCongratulations to Dr. Sahiti Marella on successfully defending her PhD dissertation entitled “Regulatory Networks that Govern the Esophageal Epithelial Proliferative Response in Eosinophilic Esophagitis Endotypes."

Dr. Marella was a Molecular and Cellular Pathology graduate student in the Simon Hogan, PhD Laboratory, which focuses on understanding the immunopathological mechanisms of food allergy and Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE). “I chose to join Dr. Hogan’s laboratory because I suffer from food allergies and atopic disease, and I have a first-hand understanding of the clinical significance and relevance of studying the molecular processes which drive food allergies,” she explained. Food allergies are associated with reduced quality of life including social implications, continual mental stress and anxiety associated with accidental food exposure, and a practical challenge of identifying foods that may cause disease and exacerbations.

Marella’s thesis work aimed to better understand the molecular pathways that govern epithelial remodeling (Basal Zone Hyperplasia [BZH] and Dilated Intercellular Spaces [DIS]) and histopathologic changes in EoE, which are largely driven by the cytokine Interleukin-13 (IL-13). Following a literature review, she identified the crosstalk between STAT3 and Wnt/b-Catenin-signaling in cellular proliferation, from which she developed her hypothesis that IL-13-induced and STAT3-dependent esophageal epithelial proliferation is regulated by SFRP1, an important Wnt signaling molecule. Using bioinformatics skills she learned in her embedded Bioinformatics Masters program, she was able to connect STAT3 and SFRP1 in esophageal proliferative response and validated her hypothesis in EoE. “I developed and designed the experiments to test the role of STAT3 and SFRP1 in esophageal epithelial proliferation in vitro and established new murine EoE models in the laboratory.”

Sahiti presents her award winning poster at the 2022 MCP Research SymposiumHer work earned her multiple awards as a student including a funding award from the Campaign Urging Research for Eosinophilic Diseases (CURED) Conference; best oral presentation, best poster, and outstanding research awards at the Annual Pathology Research Symposia, University of Michigan, best basic research poster award from the Mary H. Weiser Food Allergy Center Symposium, outstanding poster award from the FASEB GI Tract XX Conference Making and Breaking the Gut, individual predoctoral fellowship – F31 award from the National Institute of Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and a travel award for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology 2024 Conference.

Her time as a MCP student was not all work, though.  “Some of my favorite moments have been the times when we have gotten together as a group, particularly the summer picnics! It is really nice to come together and catch up with the MCP community. I have made some life-long friends in the program. A huge part of my PhD journey has been filled with experiences with these friends (Goat yoga, painting class, cooking class, supporting each other through the ups and downs.)”

While she has finished her PhD program, Marella is not going anywhere. She will continue to work in the Hogan Laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow and continue to spend time with friends made during her years as a student. She plans to expand her research on epithelial cell dynamics and dysregulation in EoE and other esophageal diseases.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Sahiti Marella on completing a stellar educational journey as she launches into her professional career.