The Role of Human C1q Binding Protein (C1qBP) in Immune Recognition of Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV)

Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is an important viral cause of disease globally especially in immunocompromised persons. Current medications to treat HCMV infections (Ganciclovir) have a poor safety profile, and risk the potential to select for drug resistance. Antibodies and immune cells confer partial protection against HCMV; however, the contribution of other immune defenses such as the complement system remain poorly understood. In this study, Verina will employ a yeast-two-hybrid screen using an HCMV gene library to identify protein-protein interactions with human C1qBP, a multifunctional intracellular complement protein. Following identification, Verina will characterize protein-protein interactions in the context of how C1qBP functions in the Human immune response to HCMV infection. Identification of such HCMV-complement interactions could potentially inform the development of vaccines and novel drugs.

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Mapping the Spatial Pattern of Response to ALIC DBS Using fMRI

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common psychiatric disorder characterized by intrusive anxiety-provoking thoughts and repetitive behaviors. Deep brain stimulation (DBS), an implantable neuromodulation therapy that can effectively modulate neural circuits in the brain using electrical stimulation, has emerged as an approach to treat severe cases of OCD. To address the current need for reliable biomarkers of OCD symptom response to DBS to inform the optimal brain targets for OCD patients, Sushil will evaluate functional MRI data acquired simultaneously to DBS in a cohort of patients with medication-refractory OCD to comprehensively map out the brain’s functional response to DBS at different therapeutic settings. Sushil will investigate the impact of DBS on the brain and uncover basic circuit principles underlying OCD.

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Partial Oxidation of Ethane Using Copper and Proton MFI Catalysts

Current processes for the production of partially oxidized alkanes constitute a large portion of the energy consumption of the petrochemical industry. The conversion of low cost and readily available alkane feedstocks to more useful unsaturated hydrocarbons and oxygenates while making use of cheap oxidants such as oxygen can circumvent the need to rely on the energy intensive and environmentally harmful processes currently implemented. Through the use of a Cu-MFI catalyst, Ihab plans on tackling this issue by synthesizing a collection of copper catalysts with various copper loadings. Varying the number of residual proton sites within a zeolite crystal, or the addition of CuMFI+HMFI catalyst mixtures with different weight ratios, will be useful for maximizing the selectivity toward the partially oxidized product.

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Effects of Environmental Atrazine Levels on Oxidative Stress in Brains of African Clawed Frogs (Xenopus laevis)

Atrazine (ATR), an herbicide, is used extensively throughout the world and is applied in excess of 70 million pounds annually in the United States alone. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the maximum contaminant level for safe drinking water is 3 parts per billion. However, mounting evidence shows that much lower concentrations pose significant danger to exposed wildlife. Herbicides other than ATR have been linked to cognitive impairment in humans, with oxidative stress, a process which causes cell damage, being the likely culprit. However, there is no evidence that ecologically relevant levels of ATR are a direct causal agent of oxidative stress. Selina’s research will investigate atrazine’s effect on oxidative stress in the brains of African Clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis), with implications for wildlife and humans.

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Investigating the Correlation between Pupil Dynamics, Behavioral Responses, and Neural Activity

It has been difficult to isolate the neural activity linking a particular visual stimulus to the behavior it triggers. This may be due to variability in neural activity caused by factors such as pupil size fluctuations, and research has shown that pupil dilation reduces neural activity variability. May hypothesizes that pupil dilation prior to presentation of visual stimuli will improve the behavioral response of mice performing a visual contrast detection task. Using two-photon calcium imaging, May will examine the neural activity of mice performing the task while recording their pupils. Examining the correlation between pupil size, behavioral responses, and neural activity could refine our understanding of visual perception, and it is one of the first steps toward developing technology that could encode artificial perception in those who are visually impaired

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