Health Sciences – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

Research Discipline(s): Health Sciences

Explaining the variability in C. elegans wild-type longevity

Aging is a dynamic and complicated process, and although it affects every organism, the topic remains poorly understood. The topic is also very hard to study on humans because of the time requirements. To circumvent this limitation, scientists utilize model organisms and study cellular physiology to determine the molecular pathology of aging. A common model organism for aging experiments is the Caenorhabditis elegans (the roundworm) because it is small, inexpensive, has a short lifespan, and its developmental anatomy has been very well characterized–making it a perfect model organism for studying aging. The N2 strain is used as a control and is standard for laboratory experiments. However, it has become apparent after experience in published literature that there exists an inherently variability in the N2 C. elegans lifespans. In order to address this issue, approximately 1,000 experiments extracted from primary published literature were analyzed from around the and data was extracted from the N2 wild type C. elegans. We then performed a metanalysis of our primary data based on a set of conditions explicitly extracted from these experiments. While data collection is ongoing, we aim to identify seemingly “soft” conditions to create standard models of lifespans of C. elegans under specific conditions to aid other researchers with their aging experiments with C. elegans.

Whole Health Educational Resource Development and Evaluation for Veterans and VA Staff

The Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, the largest healthcare system in the United States, has introduced a holistic model of care termed the Whole Health system of care, with a key tool in this system being the Circle of Whole Health model. Veterans at the Veteran’s Affairs (VA) Clinic in Ann Arbor, MI have been very well informed on the Circle of Whole Health, and it has been used to empower Veterans in showing them areas of strength in their lives, as well as areas that need more attention. These areas include social relationships, physical activity, nutrition, and spirituality. With the Circle of Whole Health as a guide, this study, conducted by physicians and researchers at the VA Clinic of Ann Arbor, aims to gather research regarding which/whether holistic care modalities should be implemented in the daily care routines of Veterans including yoga, acupuncture, meditation, light therapy, and diet changes.

Whole Health Educational Resource Development and Evaluation for Veterans and VA Staff

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs works towards improving the lives of veterans nationwide. Part of their efforts include the implementation of a new system of health care called Whole Health. Whole Health is a system of care that focuses on complementary and integrative health, while placing veterans and VA employees at the center of their care. There are eight areas surrounding the person at the center of care, including: Moving the Body, Surroundings, Personal Development, Food and Drink, Recharge, Family, Friends and Coworkers, Spirit and Soul, and Power of the Mind. This study aims to identify the perceptions and utilization of care modalities in the eight areas surrounding the patient. A survey, asking qualitative and quantitative questions, was distributed to veterans and VA staff. The results of this survey will help the Ann Arbor VA and VAs across the country improve veteran care. At the time of publication of this abstract, the data has been collected and preliminary analysis is in process. The specific, detailed, and final results will be available at the time of the Symposium presentation.

Whole Health Educational Resource Development and Evaluation for Veterans and VA Staff

Whole Health is a system of care utilized in Veteran’s Affairs facilities around the country. This system emphasizes holistic and integrative healthcare that seeks to consider all aspects of a patient’s life and surroundings when seeking the best course of treatment. This study aims to understand patients’ and healthcare providers’ perceptions of the Whole Health System, along with their level of utilization of the many services offered by it. A Qualtrics survey focusing on each of the 8 areas of Whole Health is currently in the process of being distributed to Veteran patients, healthcare providers, and other individuals affiliated with the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System. Once the results from survey participants are collected and analyzed, it is hoped that they will shed light on individuals’ perceptions and experiences with Whole Health. Gaining this information has the potential to help improve the effectiveness and accessibility of the Whole Health System for all those who benefit from it. At the time of publication of this abstract, the data has been collected and preliminary analysis is in process. Specific, detailed, and final results will be available at the time of the Symposium presentation.

Diversifying Congress though Protest

More recent elections in the United States have seen an increase in minority and women representation. Since the conception of the nation, there have been pushes in order to make the people that we elect truly representative of the people who work for them. The 2018 election marked a historic increase in female identifying members of Congress, or a Women’s Wave as it has been called. Our research revealed how external factors such as the Women’s Marches and the Black Lives Matter movement directly influenced recent elections. We compiled research on Congressional candidates’ biographies such as their age, race, gender identity sexual orientation, political party, and their history of activism. This data was used in connection with information that we collected on protests such as Black Lives Matter and the Women’s Marches. Our research highlights the impact that these social movements had on the increased representation in Congressional elections.

Does the diagnosis of idiopathic Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Behavior Disorder require an overnight sleep study?

In an integrated health care system, in what sort of clinical settings do people receive their initial diagnosis of iRBD? Idiopathic Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Disorder (iRBD) is a sleep disorder characterized by dream re-enactment. RBD is referred to as idiopathic when it occurs in isolation (i.e. without a co-existing neurodegenerative disease diagnosis). A majority of iRBD patients will go on to receive a diagnosis of an a-synucleinopathy, a family of neurodegenerative disorders including Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB). A confirmed diagnosis of iRBD requires the use of video polysomnography (PSG), but screening surveys, such as the RBD Screening Questionnaire, have shown good comparative validity compared to PSG. In this project, we aim to test whether people who are diagnosed with RBD without a sleep study differ from those diagnosed after a sleep study.

Targeting Candida albicans Virulence

Fungal pathogens like Candida albicans can cause devastating human disease. Treatment of candidemia is complicated by the high rate of resistance to common antifungal therapies and the toxicity of many antifungal compounds due to the conservation between essential mammalian and fungal proteins. As the number of immunocompromised and hospitalized patients vulnerable to fungal infections increases, it is essential to discover new targets and approaches for targeting these deadly fungal pathogens. An attractive new approach for antimicrobial development is to target virulence factors; these are non-essential processes that are required for the organism to cause disease in human hosts. This approach expands the potential target space while reducing the selective pressure towards resistance, as these targets are not essential for viability. In C. albicans, the key virulence factor is a morphogenetic switch from yeast to filaments. We have developed a high-throughput image analysis pipeline that can readily distinguish between yeast and filamentous growth in C. albicans and identify cytotoxic molecules. Based on this clear phenotypic assay, we have screened compounds for their ability to inhibit this important virulence factor or cause fungistatic or fungicidal effects. Also, to avoid host cell toxicity, the compounds screened are compounds used as treatments for other medicinal purposes. We have begun to use these compounds to screen for resistant mutants of C. albicans, and in the future we will use these resistant mutants to leverage the tractable genetic systems of C. albicans to determine mechanism of action, thus allowing for targeted development of new antifungal therapies. Overall, this approach will build a platform for rapidly developing new molecules for antifungal therapeutics.

Disability Justice and Technology

Blind people use commercially available visual description services powered by either human agents or artificial intelligence in their daily lives to alleviate access barriers. However, few works discuss the security risks for Blind people when inadvertently exposing private content during the use of these services. From the personal narratives of Blind people, this study seeks to inform the design of privacy preserving and equitable technologies for and with Blind people. Through semi-structured interviews with Blind people, this study unearths the current privacy-preserving practices they use, and the values and considerations to be included in emerging technologies. This work offers the conceptualization of image obfuscation techniques in upcoming design iterations of visual description services.

C++ Programming for Data Packaging

The University of Michigan’s Direct Brain Interface Laboratory has a backlog of raw data that needs to be systematically processed and saved into a standardized format for later analysis. This project was to create a new Graphical User Interface (GUI) in MATLAB which would allow any user to simply process and package the raw BCI data. The GUI also needs to take in information gathered from surveys for each session for each participant and save them for later use. Using MATLAB’s design environment App Designer, a new GUI was created that incorporated code from previous data packaging projects. The GUI currently allows the user to load in raw data then process it, and administer and save surveys or load in survey data that was administered elsewhere, then save all of the processed data together in a standardized form. This new GUI will work for the lab’s data collected during the keyboard replacement study, with the ability for data from different protocols to be added in the future.

C++ Programming for Brain-Computer Interface Evaluation of Choice-making

A Direct Brain Interface provides a direct connection between the human brain and various other kinds of technologies. The University of Michigan- Direct Brain Interface (UM-DBI) Laboratory’s current work focuses on creating practical clinical tools for people with physical disabilities. These tools include electroencephalogram (EEG)-based brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). The UM-DBI laboratory has been working on software for cognitive testing and is creating additional test question formats . As a single term project, I have limited goals to achieve in a short time frame. I have picked up on this project and am working on improving the overall layout of the question formats and adding more usability features to the software. The existing code for the BCI to generate questions for cognitive testing is written in C++ and uses the Visual Studio 2010 compiler. It uses Cmake and QT creator to simplify the GUI application development. I used an agile method to work on improving the code and met with my mentor regularly to fix issues. As a result of my work, the lab will now be able to skip certain training pages that are not required during the testing process. The program instead will start from the base level of questions. There are parameter error checking features that are still being implemented. Once completed, it will lower the chances of the software crashing while in use and will make things run smoother.

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