C elegans Immune Response: Final Report

This past year I was able to conduct research examining the immune response of the nematode C elegans when infected with a model organism of M tuberculosis called BCG. A key focus of my research depended on the gene daf2, which is involved in the insulin and immune pathways of C elegans. Expression of daf2 leads to the sequestering of daf16 transcription factors in the cytoplasm of cells. Daf16 is a forked-head transcription factor involved in the p38 MAPK pathway, a pathway involved in the response to pathogens. It has been shown that daf2 mutants are stress-resistant and long-lived, and also resistant to killing by Gram-negative bacterial pathogen P aeruginosa. Interestingly, daf16 is required for this resistance and studies reveal that its downstream effectors, notably lys-7, are anti-microbial genes. I am especially interested in the role of daf2 and daf16 in the immune response, especially considering reactive oxygen species (ROS) interactions. It has been shown that glutathione (GSH) is a thiol-based detoxification molecule used in the human immune response to protect host tissue from oxidative stress. GSH is also able to mediate BCG killing within granulomas in the lung. GSH is also produced within the nematode, and may be involved in the immune response when infected with BCG.

On April 6th, I had the opportunity to present my research thus far at the Eastern Colleges Science Conference at Manhattan College. At this conference I presented my data in a poster and was able to express my goals and future directions with professionals as well as other students. Having the ability to speak about my work as well as learn about other’s was extremely rewarding and was a great introduction into the research community outside of Pace University. I couldn’t believe some of the projects I saw were done by students my age in other undergraduate institutions and honestly motivated me to further my work and expand the project.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from this research initiative is that scientific research is not done alone. Great insights and discoveries stem from research teams that devote so much time and energy into their work. I would have nothing without the help from my faculty mentors as well as partners on my research team. Another lesson I learned is that time management is an extremely tough skill to master and takes true trial and error. Juggling research, course work, and involvement in outside organizations was a struggle I faced this past semester. As I stated in previous blog posts, I learned the hard way that organization and sticking to a tight schedule are essential while in this program. Following hard deadlines and remaining on track is easier said than done, and it takes hard work and dedication to maintain.

Scientific research is based both on literature review as well as laboratory work. Literature review can be done from the comfort of your own home and occur at any time of the day. In contrast, working in the laboratory requires time and patience. Not every experimental design will give the expected results, or give any results for that matter. Over the past year I’ve learned that when performing experiments, you should not only be prepared to perform Plan A, but also B through Z. These experiments are more times than not built off the backs of experiments done before and data found from previous studies, which again supports the need for thorough and extensive literature review. You cannot move forward in a project if you have a hazy view and understanding of what you are doing. Thus, you must be constantly reading articles and journals pertaining to your project. The more you understand the easier it is to create experiments and correct mistakes in the trials that you performed.

I believe this year was the perfect time to begin my own research project and be a part of this program due the cultivation of information I learned in my previous courses as well as the current courses I am taking. Being knowledgeable in areas such as signal transduction and cellular processes during the immune response helped me not only understand information within the literature, but also to create my own experiments. Besides course work, my research advisor Dr. Marcello and professor Dr. Marcy Kelly were the underlying support system of my research. Both were available at every turn during my project and always so eager to lend a helping hand. With the guidance they have given me I look forward to continuing my work as well as pursuing a future career in the laboratory.

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