Brenda Marsh

Brenda Marsh MD, PhD

Assistant Professor, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine

Dr. Marsh is an Assistant Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at OHSU. She received her MD, Ph.D. in Immunology at OHSU, working with Dr. Mary Stenzel-Poore. She completed her residency in Internal Medicine at the University of California, San Diego. While there, she completed a one-year post-doctoral fellowship at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology with Dr. Sujan Shresta. She continued her training with a fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at OHSU. After a year of research support on the OHSU Pulmonary and Critical Care training grant, she joined the OHSU faculty in 2017.

Dr. Marsh’s research focuses on the neuroimmunological mechanisms underlying asthma, with a special focus on the in utero events that translate maternal inhalation exposures to airway hyperreactivity in their children. In 2016, approximately 1 in 7 Americans had been affected by asthma, a significant increase from 1 in 9 in 2001. Children have been particularly affected; the prevalence of childhood asthma in the United States doubled from 1980 to 1995 and continued to increase until hitting a historically high plateau in 2009. The escalation of asthma prevalence is driven, in part, by increasing urbanization, air pollution, and allergen exposure. That is, in addition to genetic factors, it appears that environmental factors can cause de novo airway hypersensitivity in susceptible individuals. For example, mid-gestational exposure to ambient air pollutants in mothers without asthma leads to an increase in asthma incidence and a decrease in lung function in their children. This critical window of fetal development presents a powerful opportunity to block the vertical transmission of asthma risk to children.

A crucial mediator of irritant-induced airway inflammation is the transient receptor potential A1 (TRPA1) channel. TRPA1 is expressed on airway sensory nerves. It is activated by inflammatory molecules and it helps mediate the sensory neuronal response to airway inflammation. Consequently, TRPA1 integrates inflammatory and neurologic information within the airways.

Dr. Marsh’s current work is focused on understanding the role of TRPA1 in airway hyperreactivity in both allergen- exposed mothers and their children, and determining therapeutic interventions that may be used in pregnant mothers to prevent the transmission of asthma risk to their offspring.

Mentors: David Jacoby M.D. and Allison Fryer Ph.D.