Thursday, July 29, 2010
Thirteen AU students – an all-time high for our programs – have participated in research with AU science faculty this summer on a variety of projects. Pictured above are (standing, left to right): Megan Liggett, Phillip Wages, Zachary Il'Giovine, Jacqueline Skiba, Charles Davis, Rachel Day, and Torrie Goudy; and (kneeling, left to right): Tricia Matz, Nicole Genco, Amy Drossman, Heather Bensinger, and Wendy Dria. Not pictured: Jennifer Miller. Funding for this research has come from a variety of sources including grants from the Merck Foundation, National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and the Dr. Scholl Foundation.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
|Phillip Wages in our zebrafish aquarium facility|
Pesticide use is a common way to eliminate pests for optimal crop growth; however, their misuse or over use can be harmful to non-target organisms and possibly even consumers. Toxicity testing of pesticides is not a new thing, but the incorporation of pesticide mixtures and the use of a versatile model organism will hopefully form a more complete description of the effect pesticides have on the environment. Both atrazine and permethrin are commonly used on crops together to eliminate unwanted weeds and insects respectively, but after it rains both of these commonly end up in streams and lakes and could potentially disrupt these ecosystems. For this reason, zebrafish become ideal model organisms because they can be used to understand the basic toxicity of these pesticides and hormonal and protein disruption with relative ease. This approach to understanding the effects of pesticide could ultimately change the outlook of how pesticides are administered and regulated.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Young girls love to wear jewelry. Bejeweled hearts, butterflies, angels, peace signs, ladybugs and ballerinas may look appealing, but if made of the toxic metal cadmium, they can be deadly. We used a method called X-Ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy to screen these jewelry items for cadmium levels; items with unusually high concentrations are marked for further analysis. Since the vast majority of these jewelry pieces appeal to children, further testing is preformed to model feasible contact a child may have with the cadmium-based charms. These tests simulate the exposure that a child might get by mouthing or swallowing a charm, along with a total cadmium analysis of each piece. Exposure to cadmium is cause for concern because cadmium bio-accumulates, meaning that the body cannot cleanse itself of this toxin. Over time cadmium builds up and can cause adverse health effects including kidney failure, cancer and osteoporosis. Exposure to high cadmium jewelry items adds to the total cadmium accumulated in day to day life, mainly from eating food as cadmium is present in the soil and is taken up by plants. Our research has contributed to three recalls of jewelry items for cadmium contamination by the Consumer Products Safety Commission, which is currently working on a proposal for the regulation of cadmium in children’s jewelry.
- Jennifer Miller
Monday, July 19, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
The central nervous system (CNS), which includes the brain and spinal cord, functions like a network receiving and relaying messages back and forth from different parts of the body. Cells called neurons form the functional architecture of the CNS and regulate neuronal communication in the nervous system. My research focuses on the analysis and function of the protein Neuronal Interleukin-16 (NIL-16). NIL-16 is a protein expressed exclusively in neurons of the CNS. Two specific areas of the brain in which NIL-16 protein is highly expressed are the hippocampus and cerebellum, which are associated with learning and memory, but are also vulnerable to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. NIL-16 is a multi-domain scaffolding protein capable of organizing signaling complexes in neurons. These neuronal signaling complexes are critical for efficient communication between neurons. Understanding how signaling complexes form in neurons is significant to our understanding of how the brain works. The long-term goal of this research is to identify proteins that interact with the NIL-16 protein. In order to identify the unknown proteins we used MALDI (TOF) analysis, which is a state of the art biochemical technique. MALDI (TOF) analysis uses a laser beam to cause ionization of the protein sample, which produces a mass spectrum. This mass spectrum allows for the unknown protein to be compared to a standard and accurately identified. Identifying unknown protein complexes that interact with NIL-16 will contribute toward understanding how the brain works and will also provide improved diagnosis and treatment of nervous disorders.
- Charles Davis
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
"The project that I am working on is the identification of circadian clock-associated proteins in the fungi Aspergillus nidulans and Aspergillus flavus. Circadian rhythms are ~24 hr long cycles of behavioral processes that occur throughout the day that can be monitored or set using light/dark or temperature cycles. We are using the fungus Aspergillus as our model organism because its circadian rhythm cycles can easily be monitored. Fungal circadian rhythm research can be applied to human sleep disorders because the properties of the clock are similar. I have identified many proteins involved in the circadian rhythm clock and I am currently trying to confirm their identity and cycling using real-time PCR."
- Wendy Dria