Kristin Renkema

Kristin Renkema

Assistant Professor

[email protected]

321 Henry Hall

(616) 331-4307

Faculty Biography


BMS 213 - Microbiology Lab


Ph.D. (Immunobiology) University of Arizona, 2008-2013
B.A. (Biology, Writing), Anderson University, 2004-2008


My lab’s research revolves around two themes:

1) Environmental signals govern the immune system during homeostasis and disease

2) Adaptive immune cells maintain a state of “innate-like readiness” which benefit host response to infection and/or cancer.


My lab weaves these two themes to determine how environmental cues regulate innate immune “readiness”. Specifically, we measure how environmental exposure, including microbial experience, shapes immune cell signaling pathways and ability to respond to activation signals. Previous research has shown that traditional inbred specific pathogen free (SPF) adult mouse immune systems resemble human infant immune systems, and may not be an ideal model for studying adult human immunity. Locally purchased pet store mice, which harbor a number of naturally acquired murine pathogens, have immune systems that resemble those of human adults. We will use this model to answer several remaining questions, including how the microbial environment shapes the immune cells throughout development, and how microbial exposure translates into signals that are interpreted by immune cells, ultimately leading to an enhanced state of “readiness” to respond to pathogens.


Impact: Allergies, including allergic asthma, diagnoses have exploded in the last 30 years. For example, the frequency of asthma sufferers has tripled since 1980 (CDC). We hypothesize that increased hygiene practices may prevent critical signals from shaping the immune system, potentially allowing it to overreact to allergens. We hope that our research will help find ways to safely prime the immune system during childhood, and therefore help prevent potentially deadly allergic responses.

Page last modified August 16, 2021