In the past decade, Muslim discrimination has increased to an all-time high. Multiple research journals have identified that discrimination can have adverse health effects on people of certain races. While studies have predominantly been researched towards African-Americans and Hispanics, I questioned how discrimination affects Muslims around the United States. My project aimed to understand the effects discrimination against Muslims has on their overall mental and physical health. Using an online survey website, the first study took place approximately one week after the 2016 United States Presidential election to see if there were adverse health effects present in Muslims, due to the election results. With the same participants for the second study, four months after the election, we will be maintaining contact to see if more health issues, if any, have arisen or if the previous ones have continued on since then. Along with the Muslim participants, we included a significant subsample of non-Muslims to compare their health behaviors during both waves of the study. This project analyzes the issues of Muslim discrimination and how it affects the health of Muslims in the United States.
Regulation of Animal Vascular Tissue in a Brainstem Respiratory Center
Spring 2015-Fall 2016
Investigators: Dr. Daniel Mulkey (Associate Professor), Virginia Hawkins (Post doc fellow), and Samana Zaidi
I have worked in Dr. Daniel Mulkey’s lab investigating the processes involving regulation of animal vascular tissue in the brainstem respiratory center. We have been using mammalian models to conduct our research, therefore, rats and mice were utilized. Our research has been focused on chemoreception which is the mechanism by which breathing is regulated as levels of CO2 and H+ increase or decrease in tissues. An important region of interest of ours is the retrotrapezoid nucleus known as the RTN. Within the RTN there are neurons that control breathing. An important channel is contained within the RTN region known as the KCNQ channel. We focused on multiple KCNQ channels primarily KCNQ2 and KCNQ3. These channels are potassium channels that are critical for brain function. We investigated the effects of loss of function and gain of function on KCNQ channel variants and what the response leads to be. In addition, the research was further applied to how we can use KCNQ2 channels to target patients with encephalopathy.
Understanding the Role of SR-B1 in Lipid Metabolism and Inflammation
Investigators: Christopher Blesso, Christina Jiang
SR-B1 is an HDL receptor that has a role in cholesterol exchange and the initiation of intracellular signaling cascades involved in lipid metabolism. SR-B1 is highly expressed in the liver, but its function has not been fully determined in adipocytes, which is the aim of this project. Cholesterol imbalance can result in disease states such as atherosclerosis, so the study of this HDL receptor can be implicated in disease prevention.
The aim of the research was to perform successful knockdown in 3T3-L1 adipocytes by using siRNA (scramble, cyclophilin, SR-B1); determine gene expression of SR-B1 and cyclophilin to confirm knockdown; determine inflammatory response of adipose by introducing LPS or macrophage-conditioned media to cells. After treating the cells with the appropriate reagents, RNA was isolated, cDNA was synthesized, and PCR was conducted to confirm knockdown. There was a 40% knockdown in cyclophilin when treated with cyclophilin siRNA and insignificant knockdown with SR-B1 knockdown. There is about a 60-70% knockdown of SR-B1 in adipocytes treated with SR-B1 siRNA, indicating that the knockdown was successful. In the presence of macrophages, there is about a 40% knockdown of SR-B1. In the presence of LPS, there is also about a 40% knockdown of SR-B1. These successful gene knockdowns provide evidence to continue on with the experiment.
Drug Treatment for Depression: Deprenyl’s Effect on Motivation, Effort and Behavior
Investigator: Shanicka Reynolds
Depression is more than a feeling of sadness. It can progress into a disabling disease that degrades mental, physical, and social health. One of the most debilitating symptoms of depression is a decrease in motivational behavior. Motivational symptoms such as fatigue and anergia are difficult to treat and many of the existing antidepressants do not effectively treat motivational symptoms. This project will focus on the MAO-B inhibitor drug, deprenyl. The goal is to provide a more detailed characterization of the motivational effects of deprenyl through experimentation. Successful increase of motivational behavior using deprenyl will not only benefit patients suffering from depression, but will help patients of various disorders such as Parkinson’s where depression can be a side effect of their disease.
Knowledge and Assessment of Hydration in Heat Acclimatized Collegiate Male Soccer Athletes
Investigators: Abigail Colburn1, Robert A. Huggins1, Andrea Fortunati1, David Looney1, Chris West1, Lawrence E. Armstrong, FACSM1, and Douglas J. Casa, FACSM1
1University of Connecticut
Fluid consumption during exercise can be influenced by vessel type and hydration knowledge, however athletes often are not given a choice of vessel and furthermore they are unaware of their individual fluid needs. PURPOSE: The aim of this single-blind matched pairs laboratory study was to investigate if hydration vessel has an impact on water consumption volume and if athletes are aware of their total body fluid balance. METHODS: Nineteen Division I male soccer athletes (age, 20±1 y; height, 180±7 cm; body mass, 78.68±7.39 kg) performed a standard 60 minute sweat electrolyte test in the heat and completed a hydration knowledge and strategy questionnaire afterwards. Ten participants consumed unlimited water from 1L commercial sports drink bottles typically used in practice (BTL), while 9 participants consumed unlimited water from a commercial water bladder hidden above them in the ceiling, only with access to the straw (BLA). Testing was conducted in a controlled environmental chamber, ambient temperature was 29.68±5.08°C, relative humidity 49.32±10.65%, and WBGT 19.32±4.43°C. Primary variables of interest included actual fluid consumed, perceived fluid consumed, actual sweat rate, and perceived sweat rate. Between group differences were analyzed using paired samples t-tests (a= p<0.05). RESULTS: There were no differences between BTL and BLA for amount of actual fluid consumed (BTL, 414.44±397.18mL; BLA, 390±288.21mL; p=0.879) actual fluid lost (BTL, 1415.56±368.62; BLA, 1344±452.14mL; p=0.712), perceived fluid consumed (BTL, 833±673mL; BLA, 565±461.64; p=0.321) or perceived fluid lost (BTL, 2444±1333; BLA, 2063±1778; p=0.607). However, when groups were combined, significant differences were found between the following variables. Perceived consumption was 692±572mL and actual consumption was 401.58±334.37mL (p=0.016). Perceived sweat losses were 2244±1552mL and actual sweat losses were 1377.89±404.90mL (p=0.015). Athletes only consumed 22.5±16.9% of actual fluid losses. Actual consumed and actual sweat losses were also significantly correlated (p<0.001). CONCLUSION: Although there were no differences between the type of vessel in which fluid was administered, NCAA Division I soccer athletes significantly overestimated both the amount of fluid they consumed and actual sweat losses during 60 minutes of exercise in the heat. These findings suggest that athletes are unaware of their individualized fluid needs, which may lead to involuntary dehydration.
Lab-on-a-chip Device for an Early Diagnosis of Cardiac Diseases
Investigators: Elena Carrington, Karim Abdel Jalil, Dr. Chandra Kumar Dixit in the Chemistry as well as the Molecular and Cell Biology Department
Through various experiments, we are showing that microfluidic arrays can be used for detection of cardiovascular disease. We are examining troponin, C-Reactive Protein (CRP), and myoglobin as biomarkers for detection of cardiovascular disease. These biomarkers are used in a 3D printed microfluidic device, which is designed with an open source designing software, Autodesk 123. The fabricated chip has two distinct regions, viz fluidics and detection zone. Reagent delivery system is constituted of five micro-channels for transporting sample and reagents to the detection chamber. Monoclonal capture antibodies are spotted separately within the detection chamber. The sample and reagents follow to the waste chamber. The detection zone is spotted with monoclonal antibodies specific to the three biomarkers. The objective of our experimental design is to develop a microfluidic-based tool for multiplexed and highly sensitive detection of cardiovascular diseases. The experiments are ongoing; therefore, we do not have conclusive results at this time.
Investigators: Dr. Thomas Seery & Omar Allam, UConn Chemistry and Institute of Material Science (IMS), and the Jin Group, Chemistry Department at Fudan University, Shanghai, China
Hydrogels are gels in which the polymer chains that constitute them are hydrophilic and thus readily absorb water. Theoretically, hydrogels have a wide array of applications, however, they display poor mechanical properties, which limit their use. My research aims at i) synthesizing hydrogels with a unique double network structure in order to improve their mechanical properties (in particular, their toughness) and ii) characterizing the physical properties of these new hydrogels to determine their suitability for possible biomedical applications. If this new structure for hydrogels exhibits superior mechanical properties, it will provide an opportunity to test possible applications such as artificial cartilage, contact lenses, and scaffolds for delivering medicine.
In Vitro Evaluation of Calcium Peroxide Release from Composite Poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) Microsphere Scaffolds
Fall 2013-Spring 2015
Investigators: Ornella Tempo, Keshia Ashe, Yusuf Khan Ph.D, Cato Laurencin Ph.D/M.D UConn Health Center, Farmington CT
Bone tissue engineering looks specifically at the intersection of cells, biomaterials, and bioactive factors for the restoration of normal bone function following instances of surgical, degenerative, or traumatic bone loss. The objective of this project was to investigate the potential of a materials-only based approach for guided bone regeneration. Specifically, the capabilities of composite poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLAGA) and calcium peroxide (CaO2) sintered microsphere scaffolds were investigated as an alternative to current bone repair strategies. During this project, composite sintered microspheres were fabricated, sintered into 3-dimensional (3D) matrices, and evaluated the in vitro release of CaO2. Continue reading →
Neural Mechanisms for Behavioral Differences on Visual Integration in Schizophrenia
By: Chi-Ming Chen, Psychology (chair), James Chrobak, Psychology, Emily Myers, Speech, Language and Hearing, and Fariya Naz
Cognitive functions like planning, reasoning, inhibiting as well as working memory are disrupted in schizophrenia. Cognitive impairments precede psychotic symptoms, and findings have consistently shown deficits in visual integration. Specifically, the visual integration disturbance in schizophrenia pertains to both an impaired basic visual processing system as well as reduced feedback from visual attention regions that should actually be amplifying relevant visual representations in contrast to irrelevant information. The goal of this project is to identify differences and establish a baseline in the neuronal oscillations for a visual integration task in individuals with schizophrenia and healthy participants using electroencephalograms (EEGs).
The Fabrication of Drug Encapsulated Microparticles for the Purpose of Drug Delivery for Pain Management
August 2014 – August 2015
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Institute of Regenerative Engineering, UConn Health
Osteoarthritis (OA) is caused by the breakdown of cartilage. The deterioration of cartilage directly exposes joints to bone surfaces causing excruciating pain, decreased range of motion, and other forms of disability to patients. To combat the pain, oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and intra-articular injections are used to manage pain from 24 hours to 7 days. However, both NSAIDS and intra-articular injections clear out of the system rapidly and require repeated dosages (leading to infection and excessive drug concentration at target site).
The purpose of this project is to develop a biodegradable microparticle (MP) implants for long lasting delivery of the NSAID celecoxib (CLX) for effective pain management of OA. Five different co-polymers of PLLA and PCL such as PLLA, Poly (LA-co-CL)(95:05), Poly (LA-co-CL)(85:15), Poly (LA-co-CL)(80:20), and Poly (LA-co-CL)(70:30) were used to fabricate MPs and release profiles were evaluated in vitro. The microparticles were fabricated by an oil-in-water emulsification technique followed by a solvent evaporation process. The drug loading efficiencies were determined using an extraction technique. The microparticles were characterized using FT-IR and light microscope.