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Dr. Miruthula Tamil Selvan

Vet Med graduate student earns prestigious fellowship

Friday, October 21, 2022

Media Contact: Kaylie Wehr | Coordinator, Marketing and Public Relations | 405-744-6740 | kaylie.wehr@okstate.edu

Dr. Miruthula Tamil Selvan was awarded the Otto S. Cox Fellowship in Genetics Research. The Cox Fellowship supports outstanding OSU graduate students with a proven record of research in genetics from any disciplinary or interdisciplinary program.

Selvan is Ph.D. student in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology at the Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

“I really appreciate them for choosing me,” Selvan said. “It is a recognition for my hard work.”

The Cox Fellowship is highly competitive, especially this year, said Dr. Christine Johnson, associate vice president in the Division of the Vice President for Research.

“This year we received 20 applications for the Otto S. Cox Fellowship in Genetics Research, which is an all-time high,” Johnson said. “The pool of applicants was very strong and competitive.”

Students were considered for not only what they had already accomplished, but also how well they articulated their future line of research and future contributions to the field of genetics.

Selvan is mentored by Dr. Craig Miller, assistant professor and director of the Oklahoma Center for Respiratory and Infectious Diseases’ Immunopathology Core Laboratory. 

“It has been a very rewarding experience to watch Miruthula grow and mature as a scientist,” Miller said. “She has put in countless hours in the lab and sacrificed a lot of personal time for these studies. I am very proud of her and this achievement!”

Selvan worked as the lead student on two major projects in the Immunopathology Core Lab that contributed significantly to the field of COVID-19 research.

Having previously identified felines as a better model to study SARS CoV-2, Selvan and her team members utilized cats as a flexible translational animal model to prevent the spread of the SARS CoV-2 delta variant and identify potential targets for downstream therapeutic development.

“We used the SARS‑CoV‑2 delta variant to infect the cats to find not only the infection but also things like the route of infection, how pathogenic it is and the severity of the virus,” Selvan said. “In addition, we wanted to find some potential biomarkers which are upregulated, or increased, in the cats during the infection so we can use those markers to identify the disease in humans.”

Selvan and her team aim to limit inflammation in COVID-19 sufferers with the hope of better outcomes.

“We were looking for what genes are most responsible for inflammation,” Selvan said. “In SARS‑CoV‑2, the main problem is the disease has its part separately, but it also causes more inflammation, which aggravates the patient's condition for some other diseases also.”

Selvan’s contribution to the study was significant.

“Miruthula discovered several important inflammatory genes and inflammation pathways that are upregulated during acute infection,” Miller said. “She then identified potential targets that can be explored for downstream therapeutic development.”

The next step will be to learn if they can use this information to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

“In the future, we will be working on those particular genes and see whether they have potential effects of inhibiting the virus or not,” Selvan said.

Selvan was one of two graduate students to receive the Cox Fellowship. She earned her BVSc (DVM equivalent) from the Veterinary College and Research Institute, Tirunelveli, in India. She is on track to complete her Ph.D. in 2023.

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