Biomedical and Life Sciences Summer Fellowship – UROP Summer Symposium 2021

Biomedical and Life Sciences Summer Fellowship

Data Mining for Modeling Drivers’ Response to a Leading Vehicle’s Merging/Demerging Maneuver

Laura Bartz | Biomedical and Life Sciences

Although there have been many recent strides in automated vehicle features (e.g., lane-keeping assist or automatic emergency braking) and autonomous vehicles (e.g., Cruise), there is still a significant need for research on human drivers’ behavior and decision-making. One larger goal of this research is to increase users’ acceptance and comfort with these driving technologies by helping align the technology’s actions / warnings more closely with human behavior and expectations. This research project, in particular, applies data mining (including statistical and machine learning methods, primarily via MATLAB code) to naturalistic driving data in order to model drivers’ behavior in response to two specific scenarios: cut-ins and cut-outs of the lead vehicle on US freeways.

Developing Novel Methods to Study the Longitudinal Effects of Chronic Stress in Mice

Deniz Kirca | Biomedical and Life Sciences

Mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety affect millions of Americans every year, and have been known to be related to stress exposure. To examine the link between the development of these disorders in mice and stress, prior research primarily examines the correlation between exposure to various stress paradigms, such as Chronic Social Defeat Stress (CSDS) and Chronic Unpredictable Stress (CUS), on various metrics collected shortly after exposure to these paradigms. Because the majority of this research has focused on acute impacts of stress exposure, however, there is a gap in the literature regarding the longitudinal effects of this stress in mice, which could help create a better model of how stress influences the development of mental disorders in clinical settings.

Elucidating the Physiological function of human B12 trafficking protein CblD

Nia Jones | Biomedical and Life Sciences

Mutations in the mmadhc gene are responsible for the cblD-type defect in vitamin B12 metabolism. To better understand the role of the CblD chaperone protein in the B12-trafficking pathway, we propose to transfect human cells with expression vectors for epitope-tagged wild-type or mutant CblD to study how patient mutations impact localization and affects B12 metabolism. My short-term goal has been to generate the expression vectors and help establish the cytoplasmic versus mitochondrial localization of CblD.

Evaluation of Myelinating Schwann Cells in CHARGE Syndrome

Ashley Gorris | Biomedical and Life Sciences

CHARGE Syndrome is a multiple malformation condition that is characterized by congenital abnormalities including coloboma of the eye, heart defects, atresia choanae, retardation of growth, genital abnormalities, and ear abnormalities. A hallmark feature of CHARGE is ear abnormalities which manifest as conductive and sensorineural hearing loss and balance disorders. The primary cause of CHARGE is pathogenic variants in the gene CHD7 (Chromodomain Helicase DNA binding protein 7), which encodes an ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling protein. Loss of Chd7 disrupts development of the neural crest, a transient migratory cell population that gives rise to a variety of cell types including sensory neurons and myelinating Schwann cells of the inner ear. Given that proper myelination is essential for peripheral auditory system function, we hypothesized that pathogenic variants in CHD7 disrupt sensory neurons and myelinating Schwann cells in the cochlear spiral ganglion.

Experiences of side effects due to COVID-19 vaccination among rheumatic disease patients: a qualitative analysis.

Nina Nguyen | Biomedical and Life Sciences

Background: Although rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs) are fairly common, individuals with RMDs were not included in the randomized control trials for COVID-19 vaccines, resulting in a lack of knowledge about the possible side effects they may face. Side effects may play a role in whether or not members of this population want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and may highlight differences in vaccine response between these individuals and the general population. We aimed to describe patients’ self-reported experiences of side effects and other treatment burdens related to COVID-19 vaccination.

Gene Editing for Combating Disease

Brett Silber | Biomedical and Life Sciences

The APP (amyloid precursor protein) is particularly relevant in the investigation of neurodegenerative diseases, notably Alzheimer’s, as a result of rare mutations in APP protein coding gene. Quantifying cell mRNA levels is crucial to the determination of cell genomic status: mRNA is transcribed from cell DNA, and ultimately translated to cell proteins. In this project, we will administer the CRISPR/Cas9 complex in neuroblastoma cells, and confirm the alteration of APP gene expression.

Muller glia reprogramming and retina regeneration in zebrafish

Sarah Gargouri | Biomedical and Life Sciences

Although the zebrafish and mammalian retina share structure and function, only zebrafish can regenerate a damaged retina. Key to this regenerative response are Muller glia (MG) that undergo a reprogramming event allowing them to divide and produce multipotent progenitors for retinal repair. Previous studies suggested that thousands of genes are associated with MG reprogramming and retina regeneration. Key among these are Ascl1a (a proneural transcription factor) and Lin28a (an RNA binding protein). Combinatorial induction of these two factors in a damaged retina causes an expansion in the zone of injury-responsive MG; thus, allowing normally quiescent MG near the injury site to engage in a regenerative response. In this project, we aim to understand the mechanism by which Ascl1a and Lin28a stimulate MG reprogramming. We anticipate that these studies will suggest novel strategies for stimulating retina regeneration in mammals.

Protest in the Streets

Lauren Weaver | Biomedical and Life Sciences

Since Donald Trump’s election into presidential office in November 2016, the United States has seen a huge increase in protests on the streets of cities nationwide. With protests like the Women’s March (2017, 2018,2019), the March for Our Lives (2018), Families Belong Together (2018), and the Global Climate Strike (2019), millions of people have participated in rallying and using their voices for what they believe in. Protest is used as a communication tool by citizens to communicate views, concerns, or feelings of misrepresentation to their government. In this project, I set out to answer the following question: Why do people attend events and protests and how do individual’s motives differ from city to city?

Restoration of Gut Barrier Protein Expression in Cytokine/LPS induced Inflammation in Colonoids

Dania Zeidan | Biomedical and Life Sciences

Background information: Aquamin is a multi-mineral product obtained by mineralized remains of red marine algae that is rich in calcium, magnesium and 72 additional minerals and trace elements. In current studies, it has been shown that Aquamin aids in gut barrier structure along with the function of colonoids (3D tissue culture) derived from colon biopsies of healthy subjects. It is critical that a colonic barrier is intact for the gastrointestinal health of individuals. Colonic barrier dysfunction has been a feature of inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Barrier dysfunction could be a result of toxic insult or inflammatory attacks on epithelial cells which line the colon, although now it is being recognized that tissue could be subject to injury or inflammation due to pre-existing weakness. If prolonged, this injury and chronic inflammation can lead to the development of colon cancer. Therefore, strengthening the colonic barrier is critical. Through experimentation, it will be determined if Aquamin can restore barrier expression in cytokine/ lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induced inflammation in normal colon tissue derived colonoids.

Role of the MYRF transcription factor in retinal development

Athera Yakoo | Biomedical and Life Sciences

Myrf is a transcription factor that is essential for proper development of the retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE) and the underlying retina. We have previously analyzed mice with a conditional deletion of Myrf in the RPE and identified resulting downstream genetic changes leading to loss of RPE and impaired vision (Garnai et al., 2019). We also identified secondary defects in the retina, loss of rod and cone photoreceptors. As the etiology of these defects is unclear, we used single cell sequencing (scRNAseq) to identify the gene expression changes associated with loss of MYRF in the RPE (Rxcre;Myrffl/fl) at various stages during embryonic and postnatal development. We hypothesize that deletion of Myrf in the RPE leads to secondary transcriptional changes in the retina that impact vision.

Shared Understanding between Physicians and Nurses

Raeleen Sobetski | Biomedical and Life Sciences

Communication between physicians and nurses is a critical component to the well-being and health of their patients. However, poor communication is still one of the main challenges that affects patient safety, at the cost of the patient’s health. Poor communication can lead to a lack of understanding of the patient’s needs, which can cause adverse effects that could have been avoided with good communication. Previous studies have shown that communication needs to be improved, but have not successfully improved communication. Thus, further action is needed so that physicians and nurses communicate in order to come to a shared understanding.

Social Justice and the Environmental Movement – Lead Issues in Detroit

Noah Manuszak | Biomedical and Life Sciences

Social Justice is an ongoing effort to ensure that people in society are given fair treatment regardless of race, economic status, gender identity, sexual orientation, or ability status amongst other identities. While efforts have been ongoing to achieve justice, the movement for it is just beginning to gain recognition in various areas of society. Environmental racism is a term used to describe when a disproportionate amount of pollution emitting facilities are placed near a population with a large proportion of residents who are people of color. It can also occur when people of color do not receive the appropriate resources to deal with environmental hazards or when less media attention is directed towards people of color when they deal with pollution issues. One area of concern in this category can be seen with a particular issue in Detroit.

The mechanistic basis of anti-CD6 as a novel form for the treatment of autoimmune diseases and cancer

Sarah Ory | Biomedical and Life Sciences

Background: The use of Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors (ICIs) is limited by the induction of immune-related adverse events. CD6 is expressed by most T lymphocytes and a subset of natural killer (NK) cells, and engages the ligands CD166/ALCAM and CD318. Interrupting CD6 interaction with its ligands using UMCD6 (anti-CD6) reverses autoimmunity in mouse models of rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and uveitis, due to suppression of differentiation of effector Th1 and Th17 cells. Recently, we have demonstrated that UMCD6 directly activates CD8+T and NK cells, enhancing these cells to kill breast, lung, and prostate cancer lines, even more robustly than ICIs directed to the PD-1/PD-1L pathway. We now explore the mechanisms by which UMCD6 activates NK cells while controlling the differentiation of CD4 cells.

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