Examining Subcellular Localization of Cell Cycle Components to Determine a Better Breast Cancer Treatment

Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C) is a natural compound found in Brassica vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage; this compound has been shown to arrest the growth of breast cancer cells in a mechanism that seems to involve several critical cell cycle proteins. Gloria’s Molecular & Cell Biology Senior Honors Thesis project will investigate the changes in subcellular localization of these proteins. This data will help characterize the mechanism of I3C-induced breast cancer cell growth arrest and will be useful in evaluating the mechanisms and therapeutic promise of certain I3C derivatives. In addition, Gloria’s project will help determine the potential therapeutic value of a combinatorial breast cancer treatment using I3C along with tamoxifen, the current breast cancer treatment of choice. This combinatorial treatment shows great promise, since I3C and tamoxifen together have been found to arrest breast cancer cell growth more effectively than either treatment alone.

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Quantification of Short TE Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopic Imaging (MRSI) from Patients with Brain Tumors

Benjamin plans to implement an algorithm for quantitative analysis of Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopic Imaging (MRSI) that will improve the specificity of the calculated levels of cellular metabolites such as choline, creatine, N-acetylaspartate and myo-inositol. This information is critical for predicting tumor type and grade, tailoring treatment protocols to individual patients, and distinguishing between treatment effects and recurrent tumors. The current method of estimating metabolite concentration is not sufficient when using acquisition parameters that give complicated spectra. A least squares method, developed by Provencher et. al., is more accurate. Benjamin will apply the Provencher method for quantification of spectra obtained from novel parameters, such as short echo time and high field strength, and extend the method for use in multi-voxel MRSI from single-voxel MRSI. The results, which will be presented as his Bioengineering Senior Honors Thesis, will have important results for the therapeutic treatment of brain tumors.

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Intracellular Studies of the Thalamo Cortical Circuit

Philosophers and scientists alike have puzzled over the question of how we experience the visual world. A double major in Molecular & Cell Biology and Philosophy, John will take up this question from a scientific perspective for his Senior Honors Thesis in MCB. Focusing on the transmission of information between the thalamus and the cortex, he will use the electrophysiological methods of extracellular stimulation and whole-cell recording, in order to study synaptic transmission from the lateral geniculate nucleus to the input layer of the primary visual cortex in an in vitro rat preparation. Using these methods, John will be able to investigate many of the important mechanisms thought to determine our visual perceptions. The goals of his research are to rigorously analyze the interactions between those areas of the brain necessary for visual perception, and ultimately, to propose a mathematical model that describes those interactions.

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A Fundamental Study of Selective Catalysis in Heterogeneous Materials

A Chemical Engineering & Material Science double major, Nicholas plans to investigate the significance of catalyst structure on a system exhibiting shape-selectivity. In the past, it has proven difficult to synthetically manipulate one catalyst feature without simultaneously altering other features. As a result, the relative importance of various structural features on catalyst selectivity remains generally unknown. By using a novel synthetic method called molecular imprinting, Nicholas hopes to achieve independent manipulation of the catalyst’s structural features, thereby allowing elucidation of the mechanism of catalyst selectivity. Mechanistic information can in turn be used to optimize catalyst design, resulting in significant economic and environmental benefits in the industrial sector.

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Role of Neutrophils and Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes in Cell-mediated Immunity to Listeria monocytogenes

Aida’s Senior Honors Thesis in Molecular & Cell Biology will focus on investigating the mechanisms behind the murine immune response to Listeria monocytogenes. L. monocytogenes is a ubiquitous intracellular human and animal pathogen that can spread from cell to cell via actin-based motility. Previous studies have shown that VASP-binding deficient strains of L. monocytogenes exhibit slow motility and virulence attenuation compared to wild type strains, especially in the liver during secondary murine listeriosis. She hopes to gain a better understanding of the reasons behind this tissue difference and to determine why VASP-binding deficient strains of L. monocytogenes display more pronounced virulence attenuation during secondary versus primary murine listeriosis. The results of her research, which could have important implications for the development of therapeutics against intracellular pathogens, will be presented at the American Society for Microbiology national meeting in Spring 2002.

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Exploring the Role of Polysialic Acid in Tumor Metastasis

A double major in Molecular & Cell Biology and History, John intends to investigate the function of polysialic acid (PSA) on the cellular membranes of cancer cells. Polysialic acid is a relatively long, negatively charged sugar polymer composed only of sialic acid monomers. While the role of polysialic acid in neural and fetal cells has been well studied, information regarding its role in tumor cells has not. John hypothesizes that the long molecule disrupts the cell-cell interactions that prevent uncontrolled cell division, allowing tumor cells to rapidly multiply and expand. By utilizing the techniques of organic chemistry and molecular biology, John hopes to elucidate the function and importance of polysialic acid in tumors. Collaborating with researchers at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, he hopes to show that the presence of polysialic acid helps cause cancer. If successful, further research on the inhibition of polysialic acid biosynthesis could lead to future cancer therapy.

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