Tiny Fighters: Introduction

Johanna P -

Hi everyone! My name is Johanna Packiam and I am a senior at BASIS Phoenix. I am excited to share my senior research project with you and its journey through this blog.

For this project, I will be studying the biological mechanisms responsible for necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a gut issue that causes inflammation in the colon, primarily in neonates or newborns. This condition can be life-threatening and is more common in premature babies, contributing to a 50% mortality rate. This prompts the question: “How can we improve our research to lower that alarming rate?”

My primary goal is to gain a deeper understanding of the inner workings of NEC through a series of testing and experimentation with infant samples from both human newborns and mice/rats (pups). I plan to investigate the factors that contribute to the development of NEC, including the role of gut microbiota, genetics, and immune system mediators. I will also explore potential preventative measures and treatments for NEC, and provide more efficacy through accurate biological models.

I chose this topic because I have a passion for pediatrics and working with children. As someone who has worked among newborns and in the NICU, I am fascinated by the research on neonatology and want to contribute to this field in the NICU. I believe that studying NEC will help us identify new ways to improve the health and well-being of premature babies. Throughout my research, I will be drawing on a range of data analyses, including microbiology, immunology, and gastroenterology. Currently, I am reviewing and examining multiple research papers and graphical abstracts in relation to constructing a general understanding of the illness. I will also be working closely with Dr. Halpern, Associate Professor and Director of Neonatology Research, who is a medical professional and expert in the field, to gain far more insight and hands-on experience working in a lab at the University of Arizona, College of Medicine.

I hope that my research will shed light on this important issue and help us develop new strategies for preventing and treating NEC in the NICU. Thank you for your time and interest!


Internship Location & Contact: https://peds.arizona.edu/faculty/melissa-d-halpern

More Posts


All viewpoints are welcome but profane, threatening, disrespectful, or harassing comments will not be tolerated and are subject to moderation up to, and including, full deletion.

    Awesome! This is a great way to dive deeper into your passion as a pediatrician. The vast methods of experimentation are also a great addition to your research! I'm excited to see where this goes.
    Alana Rothschild
    In your opinion, do you believe NEC can be hereditary? If so, is it possible we will eventually have a genetic test that measures a mother's predisposition to it? This project is so interesting- great job!
    Johanna Packiam
    Hi Ms. Rothschild! Thank you for the questions! Based on past twin studies, I believe there is an underlying genetic predisposition to NEC, accounting for 50% of the variance regarding symptoms and severity of NEC. Unfortunately, we aren't sure what other factors influence NEC but we have a general grasp. However, there is still much research to be done to understand the biological mechanisms behind gut microbes thoroughly. Although genetics have their role, there is a diverse range of other factors such as socioeconomic status, prenatal care, environment, and breastfeeding v.s. formula fed, how preterm the infant is, etc. This makes providing accurate biological models and detection early on extremely difficult. Additionally, some infants who are adopted develop NEC but their birth mother is not in the picture, making it even more strenuous to measure a mother's predisposition to it. So, it might be possible to eventually have a genetic test but, I don't believe it will be soon. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *