Mentor Search Summer 2022 Projects

Delaware State University

Alberta Aryee — Fabrication and Characterization of Delivery Systems for Selected Biomolecules

During this guided study, the student(s) will be trained in conducting literature reviews and analytical techniques employed in the development, characterization and evaluation of selected nano-delivery systems for antioxidants and other biomolecules. The student(s) will also be trained in data analysis, technical writing and presentation.

Email: aaryee@desu.edu

Michael Gitcho — Medial Temporal Lobe Staging of Pathological TDP-43 Reduces Network Connectivity in Alzheimer’s Disease

Our research focuses on TDP-43, the major pathological protein in frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. TDP-43 pathology is also present in ~50% of those with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Phenotypically mimicking AD, a newly classified disorder called limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy (LATE) accounts for 30-50% of dementia cases in those older than 80 years of age previously considered as AD. With over 30 million people worldwide are currently diagnosed with AD, up to half are also likely to have TDP-43 proteinopathy. Therefore, understanding mechanisms associated with the pathogenesis of TDP-43 in AD could lead to the development of therapeutics.
As a Summer Scholar you will have an opportunity to learn animal behavior, histology, biochemistry, and cell culture techniques in order to gain a better understanding of the pathogenesis of frontotemporal dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, and other TDP-43 proteinopathies.
Webpage:https://www.gitcholab.com

Email: mgitcho@desu.edu

Mohammad A Khan — Mid-Infrared Spectroscopy integrated with learning techniques for High Precision Sensing

Exhaled human breath analysis is a noninvasive approach to profile chemical composition for the early detection and diagnosis of several diseases. Exhaled breath is mainly composed of nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide, and inert gases, but also contains a trace amount of organic compounds, saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons, that are potentially biosignatures of a specific disease, e.g. lung cancer. Volatile organic compounds (VoCs) are generated into the body by inhalation from the environment. Exogenous VoCs are inhaled and absorbed through the lung or absorbed through the skin, generated or metabolized by the cells' biochemical process. However, VoCs metabolized endogenously can travel through the bloodstream into the lungs where it is exhausted from the body.
In this research we focus on three aspects of exhaled breath analysis, (i) develop mechanical lung model and functions of lungs with volume and pressure profiles and interactions (origin, pathway, and reaction) of VoCs with lung (epithelial) cells, (ii) develop computational techniques, e.g. machine learning to understand spectroscopic profiles of chemical in lung and generate predictive transport models overtime of healthy and non-healthy individuals, and, (iii) design and develop mid-infrared laser-based systems to accurately profile VoCs in the 5- 11 um spectral range. The overall goal of this project is to investigate the state-of-the-art in research on health bio-sensing early disease diagnosis.

Email: mkhan@desu.edu

Hwan Kim — Identifying Potential Therapeutic Targets in Parkinson's Disease Mouse Models

In collaboration with HanSeok Ko at Johns Hopkins medicine, we found that external stress including alpha-synuclein preformed fibrils (PFF) reduces the senescence markers such as Lamin B1 and HMGB1, but enhanced the level of cell-cycle arrester, p21 in in vitro, ex vivo and mouse brains (Verma et al., Cells, 2021). Using Western blot and immunohistochemistry, we also found that these cellular senescence markers within reactive astrocytes as indicated by enlarged cell bodies within GFAP-positive cells and Iba1-activated microglia were responsive in a-syn PFF injected mouse brains. These results indicate that PFF-induced pathology could lead to astrocyte and/or microglia senescence in PD brains, which may contribute to neuropathology in this model. Targeting senescent cells using senolytics could therefore constitute a viable therapeutic option for the treatment of PD. As a follow-up study, we test a hypothesis that the senescence processes result in the failure of maintaining the homeostasis in dopamine neurons or surrounding astrocytes/microglia, which is associated with PD pathology. With measuring the levels of senescence markers in the PD-related regions including the striatum and Substantia nigra from PFF-injected PD mouse model or human PD brains, we will determine the effects of cellular senescence in inducing dopaminergic neuronal loss and PD pathology and verify the validity of using senolytics in halting PD pathology. This study will allow us to understand the senescence aspects of the neuropathology of PD, which may reveal potential new therapeutic targets using senolytics for preventing neurodegeneration including PD. Currently, we are testing senolytics in the PFF-injected PD mice and further developing a nanoparticle for a potential therapeutic application with a senolytic and ROS scavengers to target senescent and/or reactive damaged astrocytes (or microglia) in PD models.

Email: yhkim@desu.edu

Hakeem Lawal — Acetylcholine Synaptic Release in the Brain

The aim of this project is to use the Drosophila model system to investigate the effects of changes in acetylcholine synaptic transmission on cholinergic-linked behaviors. We have in our collection several point mutations in the vesicular acetylcholine transporter, the protein that mediates the packaging and transport of acetylcholine for synaptic release. This work therefore seeks to determine the effect of those mutations on locomotion, and learning and memory, two behavioral circuits regulated by acetylcholine.
The student will learn basic Drosophila genetics needed to run an experimental study. The trainee will also perform behavioral analyses like locomotion and will be trained in how to analyze and present their data. The student will also be trained in how to review and present on scientific literature.
Webpage: www.lawallab.org

Email: hlawal@desu.edu

Jinjie Liu — Computer Simulation of Optical Properties of Nanoparticles

Nanoparticles have been widely used in biomedical research. In this project, we study the optical properties of nanoparticles by numerically solving the Maxwell's equations of electrodynamics. Applications include scattering of gold nanoparticles, gold-coated nanoporous materials, nanodroplet, thin films, etc.
The summer scholar will conduct a literature review, run computer code, and prepare a poster or oral presentation.

Email: jliu@desu.edu

Qi Lu — Evaluating the Reflective Spectral Profiles of Lipid Membranes in Relation to the Concentration of Cholesterol

Giant Unilamellar Vesicles (GUVs) are excellent model systems for studying physical aspects of biological membranes where the interaction between lipids and proteins takes place. The key advantage of GUVs is that they can be observed directly under the light microscope because of their large sizes, comparable to those of mammalian cells. Numerous studies have shown the effects of cholesterol on the phases and structures of the lipid-cholesterol membranes. The lipid “structures” inside the membrane ocean are known as lipid rafts. Cholesterol (CHOL) increases the rigidity of lipid vesicles by forming raft-like structures. In this project, we will focus on the lipid reflective spectral profiles obtained from the hyperspectral dark-field microscopy and we studied their correlations to different concentrations of cholesterol (10, 20, 30, and 40 mol%). We will study how the reflective spetral profiles from the lipid membranes are correlated their phase and integrity.
Students will learn to prepare GUVs with phospholipids and cholesterol. They will also learn to use the Cytoviva system to collect reflective spectral profiles from the lipids membranes. They will analyze the reflective spectral profiles from GUVs mixed with various concentration of cholesterol to deduce the correlation between the reflective spectra and the integrity of lipid bilayers.

Email: qilu@desu.edu

Yuriy Markushin — Development of a Sensitive Lateral Flow Antibody Test

The purpose of Summer Scholars Program is to develop a more sensitive COVID-19 antibody Lateral Flow Assay (as well as assays for other health conditions) which reduces the chance of a false negative. Instead of having one expensive test for a disease, pooling different samples for the same analyte might help in not wasting resources. This will be an important for utilizing the pooling approach in COVID-19 testing as well as in checking immunity development and immunity sustainability in general population, especially now when some new COVID-variants are coming.
The summer scholar will participate in: sample preparation, Lateral Flow Assay test experiment, recording results by a scanning test-reader, analyzing results, reading scientific publications, writing a report, preparing the final presentation.

Email: ymarkushin@desu.edu

Brian McNaughton — Evolving Novel Protein-RNA Complexes for mRNA Editing

Proteins evolved in our lab have been used for mRNA editing. We will develop methods to identify novel protein-RNA interactions, with the goal of enabling multiplexed mRNA editing.
Researchers will learn about molecular biology, protein expression/purification in bacteria, protein and RNA biology, and methods in protein evolution.

Email: bmcnaughton@desu.edu

Karl Miletti — Phenotypic Characterization of Triple Negative Breast Cancer Cells

The INBRE scholar will phenotypically characterize several triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) cell lines to study a potential association between the expression and function of the CD44 receptor and their oxidative stress response.
The INBRE scholar will participate in the following research activities: cell culturing, RT-PCR, cell viability and toxicity assays, chromatin immuno-precipitation (ChIP) assays, western blotting, proximity ligation assays and cell imaging.

Email: kmiletti@desu.edu

Qiquan Wang — Spectroscopy Study of Pesticides-biomolecules Interaction

The use of pesticides has gained increasing attention due to their hazardous potentials to human health and environmental safety. The interaction/binding at molecular level between pesticides and active biomolecules remains largely unknown. This project aims to study the interaction of selected pesticides and biomolecules using various spectroscopy technologies, and investigates the impact of the interaction on the original functions of the targeted biomolecules.
In this project, student(s) will use FT-IR, UV-VIS, and fluorescence spectroscopy method to investigate the interaction between selected pesticides and hemoglobin. Pesticide, hemoglobin and iron-porphyrin samples will be purchased from commercial companies. Data from various spectra will be analyzed to interpret the intensities of the possible interactions. The interaction mechanisms and the relationship between pesticide structure and interaction intensity will be identified and discussed.

Email: qwang@desu.edu

Yanfeng Yue — Polymer Membrane for Virus Isolation

Find solutions to develop new routes to introduce extra nanopores into microporous composite membranes to improve large particle adsorption and will test products’ potential to be used as a filler in N95 respirators and surgical masks to block virus transmission.
Researchers will prepare polymer membrane by using electrospinning method and further screen these membranes for large molecule adsorption

Email: yyue@desu.edu

Janeese Brownlow — Psychological and Socio-Environmental Determinants of Sleep and Neurocognitive Function

There is a significant gap regarding sleep disparities, the potential role that the environment plays in such disparities, and how sleep and performance may be moderated by psychological and socio-environmental features. The goal of this project is to elucidate the interacting processes of stress and the environment on sleep and performance.
Over the course of the summer, students will be trained in the fundamentals of humans subjects research, including research design and methodology, record maintenance, informed consent, data collection, data management and integrity, analysis, interpretation and reporting of the results. Student will also be trained in the basic scientific approaches to writing and provided opportunities for dissemination.

Email: jbrownlow@desu.edu