Associate Professor Masako Fujita Awarded Wenner-Gren Research Grant

Department of Anthropology Associate Professor Masako Fujita, Director of the MSU Biomarker Laboratory for Anthropological Research, has been awarded the Post-PhD Research Grant by the Wenner-Gren Foundation in support of their new project, “Exploring Human Milk Immune Specificity.”

Breastfeeding is good for children’s health in many ways. Immune factors in milk—including antibodies and other proteins, white blood cells, and even commensal microbes—protect infants against infections and may prevent allergies. Understanding how the “immune system of milk” responds to microbes is important to understanding how breastfeeding affects children’s health.

This project will seek to understand how chronic stress mothers experience may affect how the “immune system of milk” responds to microbes. Dr. Fujita hypothesizes that high stress levels would disrupt milk immune specificity, underreacting to harmful bacteria like Salmonella or overreacting to benign microbes like Bifidobacteria, or both.

The research team includes MSU students Aditi Sharma (Anthropology/Human Biology), Alli Harkenrider (Anthropology/Human Biology), Ananyaa Asthana (Physiology/Health Promotion), Natalie Mourou (Anthropology), and Dr. Katherine Wander of SUNY Binghamton Anthropology.

Per the Wenner-Gren Foundation website:

This grant program funds individual research projects undertaken by doctorates in anthropology or a closely related field. Our goal is to support vibrant and significant work that furthers our understanding of what it means to be human. There is no preference for any methodology, research location, topic, or subfield. The Foundation particularly welcomes proposals that integrate two or more subfields and pioneer new approaches and ideas.

For more information: