Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine Faculty Kristina Gaietto, MD, MPH, Receives K12-Award to Continue Research on Violence, Stress, and Asthma

November 10, 2022

Congratulations to Kristina Gaietto, MD, MPH, on being selected as one of two 2023 awardees for the University of Pittsburgh Department of Pediatrics (DOP) Institutional Career Development (K12) Program. The goal of this K12 Program, funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), is to foster the development of promising early-stage investigators on the path to becoming independent physician-scientists.

Dr. Gaietto has been a postdoctoral research fellow in the NHLBI-funded T32 Training Grant of the Division of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh’s DOP since July 2020. Following completion of her clinical fellowship training in July 2022, Dr. Gaietto was recruited to the Division’s faculty as a clinical instructor in pediatrics.

As a postdoctoral research fellow, Dr. Gaietto has trained in the Celedón Laboratory under the mentorship of Division Chief and internationally regarded asthma researcher Juan C. Celedón, MD, DrPH, ATSF, and Erick Forno, MD, MPH, ATSF, director of the Pediatric Asthma Center at UPMC Children’s. 

A focus of Dr. Gaietto’s research has been to better understand how exposures to environmental factors such as violence and chronic stress influence disease severity and response to treatment in children with asthma. Preliminary studies conducted by Dr. Gaietto and the Celedón Laboratory have found that exposure to violence is associated with decreased lung function and, among children with T2-high endotype, increased odds of asthma.

As a K12-funded research scholar, Dr. Gaietto will continue her studies examining how exposure to violence in children with T2-high asthma may decrease the efficacy of inhaled corticosteroids, a bedrock treatment modality for many individuals with asthma.

"My research will examine cumulative exposure to violence over the individual's lifetime, how it affects DNA methylation, and to what degree," says Dr. Gaietto. "Stress of all kinds can have many negative effects on physiologic processes. For children with asthma, chronic levels, or perhaps even intermittent levels of stress related to experiencing or witnessing violent activity may change DNA methylation patterns and cause more severe disease or resistance to corticosteroid treatment."

Dr. Gaietto's studies will also try to uncover some of the mechanistic processes or biomarker signals related to an individual’s response to corticosteroids, and she will also take part in additional training in genomics and genomic data processing. 

Learn more about Dr. Gaietto.