November 5, 2013

Peer Review: Alyssa Cornelius ’14 Studies Genetics of Rare Blood Disorder

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To many people, Alyssa Cornelius ’14 is known as the “guiding eyes lady,” always seen with an entourage of adorable guide dogs in training. However, Cornelius has another life – one spent at a lab bench inside the Vet Research Tower where she spends countless hours researching Fanconi anemia, a rare blood disorder.

Fanconi anemia is a deadly affliction that affects blood production. It is passed on through mutated recessive genes in thousands of people across the globe. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute places the carrier rate of Fanconi anemia gene mutations at one in every 181 people; this means about one in every 130,000 people have the disorder. The mutations that cause fanconi anemia are characterized by genetic instability, bone marrow failure and significantly increased cancer susceptibility, according to Cornelius.

A person with Fanconi anemia is unable to grow new blood cells and can develop cancer as faulty blood cells are created, according to Cornelius. Organs are also affected because they depend on nutrients carried in the blood. Fanconi anemia affects children more than adults because of their bodies’ rapid growth, Cornelius said.

Courtesy of Alyssa Cornelius ’14Detecting disorders | Alyssa Cornelius ’14 looks for the moment during development when FancJ gene mutations in mice alter development and cause the rare blood disorder, Fanconi anemia.