Low Plaza

Graduate to Continue Research on Understanding DiGeorge Syndrome

By James Devitt

Loydie Jerome-Majewska

As a teenager, Loydie Jerome-Majewska wanted to be a doctor. But after volunteering in the emergency room of a hospital in Queens during her senior year in high school, she quickly learned that she couldn't stand the sight of blood. She eventually set her sights on laboratory work and completed her Ph.D. with distinction in December in the Integrated Program in Cellular, Molecular and Biophysical Studies at Columbia's Health Sciences Campus.
While Jerome-Majewska's aversion to the sight of blood did not cease, she remains dedicated to addressing an affliction that complicates the distribution of blood throughout the body. Her research focused on the function of a transcription factor gene, Tbx1, as the key gene in DiGeorge Syndrome, an affliction that results from abnormal development of the face, thymus and parathyroid glands, and heart. DiGeorge Syndrome, the second most common cause of congenital heart defects after Down Syndrome, affects 1 in 3,000 to 4,000 children born each year.

"When Loydie joined the laboratory, this obscure gene had been recently discovered and was known to be a candidate for involvement in DiGeorge Syndrome," said Virginia Papaioannou, a professor of genetics and development, who supervised Jerome-Majewska's dissertation. "However, 20 or 30 other genes were also candidates, and Tbx1 was not the current favorite. During the course of her studies, Loydie characterized the Tbx1 genomic locus, compared the mouse gene with the human, and produced a mutation in the mouse gene using gene targeting technology. Her work established this gene as the key gene in the DiGeorge Syndrome and had a profound impact on research on this human disorder."

Currently a post-doctoral fellow at Columbia's College of Physicians & Surgeons, Jerome-Majewska will continue her research on DiGeorge Syndrome. The Tbx1 gene accounts for 90 percent of the affliction's occurrence, and her work will focus on other factors that contribute to its existence.

Jerome-Majewska came to the United States from Haiti in 1983, when she was 10. After living in Washington Heights until 1986, she moved with her parents, three brothers and her sister to Jamaica, Queens, where she attended Hillcrest High School. Her high school experience included internships at Bellevue Hospital, where she worked in a microbiology lab investigating drug resistance of a new strain of M. Tuberculosis.

She obtained her honors bachelor's degree in biology from Wesleyan University before coming to Columbia in 1995. Her husband, Jacek Majewski, is a scientist at Rockefeller University, and they have a two-year-old son.

Published: May 22, 2002
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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