Research Recap for July 2: Hemophilia and the Restoration of the Elwha valley forests

Western’s faculty and students are engaged in exciting research and scholarship across a variety of fields, from marine science and climate change to teaching, the humanities, and the arts. Periodically, Western Today will share short summaries of the latest developments in scholarship and research at the University. Interested in reading in-depth stories about science and research at Western? Go to Gaia, the university's online journal of research, discovery and scholarship, and subscribe (it's free) to that site by clicking the "Follow" button. Want more research news? Follow @WWUResearch on Twitter.

Joseph Gish

Joseph Gish, a recent WWU graduate with an master's degree in Chemistry who studies hemophilia A, got his research published as the cover article in the May 2021 issue of "Blood," the flagship journal for the broad field of hematology. The article is entitled, “Structure of blood coagulation factor VIII in complex with an anti–C1 domain pathogenic antibody inhibitor.” 

Hemophilia A is a disorder that keeps one’s blood from clotting normally due to a deficiency in blood coagulation factor VIII (fVIII). It affects 1 in 5000 males worldwide and is typically treated with infusions of clotting factor, either recombinant or plasma-derived. But 30% of patients with severe hemophilia A develop a pathogenic immune response that renders these therapeutic infusions ineffective. The danger of an immune response is more frequent following infection, inflammatory diseases, and cancer but can occur with no triggering illness.  

What’s at stake? The immune response to therapies leads to development of anti-fVIII antibodies, which leads to frequent and inadequately treated hemorrhages. In a notable advance in the field of hematology, Gish's study reports the first structure of an anti–C1 domain antibody inhibitor and the first fVIII:inhibitor complex with a therapeutically active fVIII construct—that is, it’s a step toward preventing the development of the anti-fVIII antibodies that leads to hemorrhages. 

Dr. Gary E. Gilbert of VA Boston Healthcare and associate professor at Harvard Medical School said of Gish et al.’s research, “The antibody-fVIII structure in this article sheds light on a functional motif of the C1 domain and how an inhibitory antibody may interfere with binding VWF and phospholipid membranes, as well as affecting function of the C2 domain.” Gilbert ties the clinical significance of Gish et al.’s research to the particular prevalence of autoimmune responses to fVIII when compared to other blood-coagulation proteins.  

Gish's faculty advisor was WWU Professor of Chemistry P. Clint Spiegel.

Andy Labay

Andy Labay is a first-year graduate student of environmental sciences who studies whether riverbank lupine can facilitate conifer growth -- specifically, Lupine’s impact on Grand fir in nutrient-poor sediments along the Elwha River. He is a recipient of the WWU Graduate Research Award for his thesis entitled, “Impact of riverbank lupine (Lupinus rivularis) on Grand fir (Abies grandis) establishment and mycorrhizal symbioses in restored riparian forests along the Elwha River in Olympic National Park,” which includes a two-pronged approach: both field study and a greenhouse study.   

Labay offers, as sort of an overarching framework for thinking about his approach, “if bacteria can help us start life, they can probably help us sustain it.” His broad area of focus is community and habitat restoration—not just removing pollution but creating structural components in habitats that foster growth and community establishment.

Labay's faculty advisor is WWU Associate Professor of Environmental Science Jenise Bauman, with additional mentoring from Associate Professor of Environmental Science Rebecca Bunn.

Cover of Blood magazine, featuring a nucleus-like structure of green balls containing some red and yellow balls
Andy Labay smiles in front of Pride Flag