Kellie Jurado, PhD, a postdoctoral associate in the lab of Akiko Iwasaki, PhD, has been named a 2018 "Wunderkind" by the life sciences publication STAT. The Wunderkind honor, in its second year, identifies, in STAT's words, "the most impressive doctors and researchers on the cusp of launching their careers but not yet fully independent. Most were postdocs, fellows, and biopharma employees working with more senior scientists. All are blazing new trails as they attempt to answer some of the biggest questions in science and medicine."
STAT cites Jurado for "[helping to elucidate] Zika’s pathology, explaining the many ways it can spread among people and get passed on to fetuses in the womb. Her most recent discovery, published in Nature Microbiology earlier this year, offered clues to Zika’s devastating effects on the brain. Studying the brains of mice infected with the virus, Jurado and her colleagues observed that the body’s natural defenses, while trying to fight off Zika, were inflicting unintended damage on the brain."
"With Zika virus, it was a completely unexpected pathological consequence," says Jurado in a video that accompanies STAT's announcement of this year's 30 honorees. "So, we needed to understand the foundations of what was happening behind infection in order to fully understand how we can combat it in the future."
“Kellie Jurado is a star," says Iwasaki, who is Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Immunobiology and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology; and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. "Within a few months of joining my lab, Kellie made a discovery that paralytic disease in mice infected with Zika virus is caused by the immune cells, killer T cells, that destroy the infected neurons. She continues to amaze me with her dazzling microscopy analyses that reveal the most intricate nature of how the immune system works within the brain. I cannot wait to see what she does next!”
Jurado did her undergraduate work at New Mexico State University in her home state, and earned her PhD in virology from Harvard's Division of Medical Sciences in 2015.