Amanda Lea, Ph.D.


Amanda Lea, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Biological Sciences
Vanderbilt University
465 21st Ave. S
U5221 Medical Research Building III
City, State, ZIP
Nashville, TN 37212
[email protected]
Research field
Award year


The Lea lab will explore how early exposure to an urban lifestyle affects long-term cardiovascular and metabolic health. Both childhood and adult experiences can affect an individual’s susceptibility to disease by altering the genome’s epigenetic landscape (i.e., the reversible chemical modifications to DNA that regulate gene activity). My team and I have been parterning with the Orang Asli, the indigenous peoples of Malaysia, who live in remote rainforest villages but whose lifestyles are fast becoming more urban and modernized. In preliminary studies, we found that cardiovascular and metabolic disorders are more common in Orang Asli who currently live in urban versus traditional settings, but we have yet to explore the impacts of early life experience. Now, using integrative approaches that draw from anthropology, genomics, and molecular biology, I will assess whether early-life exposure to urban conditions induces long-lasting, stable changes to the epigenome with implications for later life health. To this end, I will use novel experimental protocols that I developed to test the causal effects of early-life-induced epigenetic variation on gene activity in high throughput. As part of this work, my team and local partners will provide free medical care to Orang Asli study participants. We will also invest in health education and local capacity building. In total, my interdisciplinary efforts will bring attention to an understudied community, and more generally provide a template for understanding and addressing health issues associated with rapid socioeconomic development.

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