STEM shoutout: Dr. Irene Salinas

Fish research could help understand history of immune system

UNM Biology Professor Irene Salinas is conducting research into the presence of defense structures in the body of lungfish that could be the evolutionary forerunners of human tonsils and adenoids.

Salinas is working on a three-year NSF grant from the National Science Foundation. Now in year two, the grant so far has totaled $530,817.

“The goal of the research is to determine whether the transition of vertebrates from water to land resulted in the organization of the mucosal immune system of vertebrates,” Salinas said. “Specifically, if lymphocytes started to form organized groupings in lungfish, which is the closest living relative of all tetrapods.”