A photo of Tesfaye Mersha.

Tesfaye B. Mersha, PhD


  • Associate Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics

About

Biography

My career in genetics and research began with an interest in understanding the interplay between biology and the environmental conditions that contribute to disease. Over time, I’ve broadened my research interests to include genomics, genetic ancestry, racial disparities, personalized medicine and bioinformatics.

One of my areas of expertise is multi-omics (genomics, epigenomics, transcriptomics, microbiome, proteomics and metabolomics). For more than 11 years, I’ve worked to integrate multi-omics with statistical genetics and bioinformatics methods to uncover the molecular architecture of medical conditions, such as asthma and asthma-related allergic diseases.

My lab performs a variety of computational and applied data analysis projects, including the development of statistical and genome informatics tools that enable multiethnic admixture, genome-wide association and omics integration studies of biomedical traits. Our goal is to develop an in-depth understanding of the intricate interactions between genomic variations and environmental exposure in the etiology of complex diseases — and then translate these findings into clinical practice through collaborations with clinicians.

Some of our previous and ongoing research efforts include:

  • Using admixture mapping to localize asthma liability genes in admixed populations
  • Studying the interaction of asthma risk variants and environmental exposures that shape racial disparities
  • Identifying genetic/regulatory networks to recognize potential functional variants associated with asthma and atopic dermatitis using whole transcriptome RNA-seq profiling
  • Investigating the role of microbiome and epigenome on asthma pathogenesis among immigrants
  • Multi-omics integration using deep learning and other machine learning algorithms

My colleagues and I have made several significant contributions to the field of genetic research. For example, in 2018, we filed a patent for our invention, “Methods for Diagnosing and Managing Treatment of Atopic Dermatitis.” Additionally, our web-based bioinformatics tool called AncestrySNPminer was the first of its kind; it retrieves ancestry-informative markers (AIMs) with divergent allele frequency/selection pressure from genomic databases. Other novel bioinformatics tools we’ve developed include GENEASE, SAGE, AdmixPower, MI-MAAP, PAMAM and AllergyGenDB.

Our work has been published in many peer-reviewed medical journals, including The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Scientific Report (Nature research journal), Genetics (Genetics Society of America), Frontiers in Immunology, PLOS ONE, Bioinformatics, Frontiers in Genetics and BMC Genomics. My article, Genome-wide Analysis Revealed Sex-Specific Gene Expression in Asthmatics, was not only published by Human Molecular Genetics on August 1, 2019, it was also featured as that issue’s cover art and is available to read on the Cincinnati Children’s Research Horizons science blog.

I’ve received numerous invitations to serve on grant reviewing panels, give seminars and lead workshops at national and international meetings and academic institutions. These include an appointment to serve on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Genetics of Health and Disease (GHD) Study Section; moderating panels on the use of ancestry, race and ethnicity in biomedical research at the NIH conference and the Missouri State University Public Affairs Meeting; and speaking at the NIH on the topic of “My Road to Success in Science.”

My awards and honors include a Faculty Research Achievement Award from Cincinnati Children’s; the African Professionals Network (APNET) Business and Professional Achievement Award; a Keystone Symposia Early Career Investigator Award; and Best Poster at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) annual meeting.

Publications

Selected

Genome-wide analysis revealed sex-specific gene expression in asthmatics. Gautam, Y; Afanador, Y; Abebe, T; Lopez, JE; Mersha, TB. Human Molecular Genetics. 2019; 28:2600-2614.

Ancestry specific associations of a genetic risk score, dietary patterns and metabolic syndrome: a longitudinal ARIC study. Hardy, DS; Racette, SB; Garvin, JT; Gebrekristos, HT; Mersha, TB. BMC Medical Genomics. 2021; 14.

Air pollution and the pandemic: Long-term PM2.5 exposure and disease severity in COVID-19 patients. Mendy, A; Wu, X; Keller, JL; Fassler, CS; Apewokin, S; Mersha, TB; Xie, C; Pinney, SM. Respirology. 2021; 26:1181-1187.

Skin depletion of Kif3a resembles the pediatric atopic dermatitis transcriptome profile. Stevens, ML; Mersha, TB; Zhang, Z; Kothari, A; Khurana Hershey, GK. Human Molecular Genetics. 2021.

Genetic ancestry differences in pediatric asthma readmission are mediated by socioenvironmental factors. Mersha, TB; Qin, K; Beck, AF; Ding, L; Huang, B; Kahn, RS. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2021; 148:1210-1218.e4.

A step towards understanding disparities - linking race, ancestry, epigenetics and pain. Chidambaran, V; Mersha, TB. Epigenomics. 2021; 13:1791-1796.

A Roadmap for Building Data Science Capacity for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa. Beyene, J; Harrar, SW; Altaye, M; Astatkie, T; Awoke, T; Shkedy, Z; Mersha, TB. Frontiers in Public Health. 2021; 9.

Achieving Precision Medicine in Allergic Disease: Progress and Challenges. Proper, SP; Azouz, NP; Mersha, TB. Frontiers in Immunology. 2021; 12.

Genetics of Food Allergy. Johansson, E; Mersha, TB. Immunology and Allergy Clinics of North America. 2021; 41:301-319.

Identification of Vulnerable Populations and Areas at Higher Risk of COVID-19-Related Mortality during the Early Stage of the Epidemic in the United States. Correa-Agudelo, E; Mersha, TB; Branscum, AJ; Mackinnon, NJ; Cuadros, DF. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021; 18.

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