Lab Students: 2008-2012


***** Class of 2011 *****

Kristen Fenocchi was a Biology/ Neuroscience double major student with minors in Biochemistry and English in the Honors program whose thesis work centered on theeffects of peroxynitrite on myelin basic protein synthesis and traffic in the chick embryonic nervous system.  She received the Presidential University Summer Fellowship in 2009, and graduated with the Kathryn and Bernard Hyland memorial award for Excellence in Biology.  She went to Drexel College of Medicine.

Alesia Walsh was a Neuroscience Honors student whose Honors thesis focused on the effects of oxidative stress on neural cell adhesion and neurite outgrowth as it relates to the effects of oral disease on trigeminal nerve degeneration and regeneration.  She went to Temple School of Dentistry

Michael Kelleman was a BCMB major.  His research focused on the effects of UV exposure and oxidative stress on crystallin expression in lens cells derived from embryonic chicks.  He got early admission and went to Salus University for Optometry.

Kamilla "Cami" Malinowska (left), a Neuroscience major, and Michele Diamond (right), a Biology major, collaborated on a project characterizing the stages of neuronal cell differentiation in the cultured avian olfactory epithelium.  Cami went to Osteopathic medical school in Kentucky, while Michele worked as a laboratory technician in the University of Maryland.


************* Class of 2010 *************

Kaitlin Moran was a Biology Major who studied the stages of in vitro growth of cultured chick olfactory neurons.  She proceeded with a graduate degree in East Stroudsburg University.
Kellie Casey worked on the effects of glucose on astrocyte metabolism and protein expression in vitro.  Kellie went to a post-baccalaureate program in Philadelphia.
Mia DeNunzio started out in the University of Scranton as a Biology major (she was my advisee and student in class).  In the Fall of 2008, she transferred to Fordham University, where she finished her undergraduate studies.  In the Fall of 2009, she came to my laboratory for the summer, where she conducted a self-designed independent research project on epithelial cell migration and the protective effects of glutathione from peroxide-induced damage.  Even if she was not a student at the U, she was still a member of my lab family, and remains a personal friend.

************* Class of 2009 *************

Allison Greco was a Biology major in the Honors Program.  She studied the effects of hypoxic and hyperoxic stress on embryonic chick cardiac myocyte metabolism.  She was awarded the Presidential University Summer Fellowship in 2008.  She went to Thomas Jefferson University College of Medicine.


Kimmie Patel was a Biology major who worked on the effects of glucose on astrocyte metabolism and protein expression in vitro.  Kimmie went to Temple University College of Dentistry.


************* Class of 2008 *************

The class of 2008 were all graduates of the Honors Program at the University of Scranton.

Kaci Haines worked on the effects of sensory experience on avian olfactory development.  She was awarded the Presidential University Summer Fellowship in 2007.  She went to medical school at University of Maryland in Baltimore.

Cassie Zagorski worked on the effects of hyperglycemia on protein kinase C in cultured chick astrocytes and endothelial cells.  After graduation, she went to the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Student thesis abstracts appear below

Kristen Fenocchi

Effects of peroxynitrite on myelin basic protein expression and traffic in cultured embryonic chick brain neurons

Demyelination associated with diseases such as multiple sclerosis may be the result of oxidative damage to the myelin sheath surrounding neurons.  One putative mechanism for this damage is peroxynitrite-induced death or dysfunction of oligodendrocytes through an unknown mechanism.  In this study, cultured cerebral and cerebellar neurons from 14 day-old chick embryos were subjected to peroxynitrite to determine if this stress had a direct effect on the expression of myelin basic protein (MBP) in the central nervous system.  Immunostaining was used to visualize the MBP expression in cells treated with 0 (control), 0.1 mM, and 1 mM peroxynitrite for 24 hours.  MBP staining was visualized using fluorescence microscopy, quantified and measured to determine the amount of MBP expressed in individual cells. Results showed that peroxynitrite affected the cells from the cerebrum and cerebellum differently,  The cerebral cells treated with 1 mM of peroxynitrite up-regulated MBP expression and increased trafficking while the cells treated with 0.1 mM only increased protein trafficking.  The treated cells from the cerebellum expressed less protein and the protein trafficking with the cells appeared to be interrupted.  These results suggest a differential effect of oxidative stress on neurons from different regions of the chick brain.  Thus, the effects of oxidative stress vary in the different regions of the brain; these differences may account for the etiology of diseases such as multiple sclerosis, and has implications for its treatment and prevention.

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Alesia Walsh

A model of indirect nerve damage: implications for trigeminal nerve degradation associated with exposure to stressors associated with oral trauma and disease

Instances of dental pain are very prevalent and have a wide array of causes, ranging from bacterial infections to sequelae of surgical procedures.  Such damage to tissue results in pain.  Much remains unknown about the mechanisms of damage that cause pain, particularly in the nervous system.  Therefore, the purpose of this study is to develop an in vitro model that can be used to understand mechanisms of nerve damage.  Oxidative stress was selected as a method of damage to cultured chick brain neurons because oxidative stress is known to cause cellular degradation, and it is the causative agent of many diseases.  Cultured cells were analyzed using immunocytochemistry techniques after exposed to either low or high treatments of oxidative stress the hope of understanding mechanisms behind the damage.  Neurofilament, cadherin, and SNAP25 expression was measured for the treatments.  The amount of protein, staining density, percent cell stained, and total area of the cell stained were measured for each treatment group and for each protein, and these values were normalized to the controls.  The results from these experiments showed that oxidative stress causes changes in cellular morphology and widespread cellular degradation.  The results also suggest that other cells (i.e. glial cells) are responsible for coping with various stressors, such as oxidative stress.

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Cassie Zagorski

Investigating the Long-Term Cellular Effects of Hyperglycemia on PKC Expression in Developing Chick Embryos

This research project examines the cellular effects of hyperglycemia in chick astrocytes and endothelial cells. Diabetes is a debilitating condition that affects not only maternal health but potentially fetal development and well-being as well. Among the many cellular effects of diabetes is the dysfunctional expression and/or regulation of cellular signaling molecules such as protein kinase C (PKC). This research project therefore tests this notion by artificially inducing hyperglycemia in chick embryos, and determining the effects on PKC expression in embryonic astrocytes and endothelial cells. Hyperglycemia appeared to induce acute, but not chronic, effects in astrocytes but not in endothelial cells. Results from this study will hopefully enable a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying various conditions experienced by diabetics that are caused primarily by hyperglycemia. This may have implications regarding the cellular effects of hyperglycemia on the progeny of diabetic mothers.

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Mary Kate Hoffman

The role of plasma membrane calcium channels in odorant-elicited calcium signaling of cultured human olfactory cells

Calcium, a ubiquitous intracellular messenger, drives depolarization reactions and generates action potentials in olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) in a manner similar to those in other neurons. ORNs respond to odorants with changes in intracellular calcium concentration ([Ca2+]i). Odorant-elicited calcium fluxes in human olfactory cultured cells (HOCCs) display similar characteristics to those found in mature human olfactory neurons, so HOCCs will be tested in this experiment. Characterization of the mechanism behind calcium effluxes is important, since healthy and diseased human ORNs employ odorant-elicited [Ca2+]i effluxes. The plasma membrane calcium ATP-ase (PMCA) is a protein in the plasma membrane of ORNs known to decrease [Ca2+]i following odorant stimulation. The understanding of the mechanism behind [Ca2+]i decreases, particularly PMCA function, may further elucidate studies on physiology of olfaction, neurogenesis, and neurodevelopmental diseases. Cell responses to odorants were recorded with live cell imaging techniques and the PMCA expression was studied with immunocytochemistry. Sodium orthovanadate reversibly inhibited the PMCA in order to abolish odorant-elicited [Ca2+]i fluxes in cells. The same cells responded to two different odorants, suggesting the possibility of dual second messenger systems in HOCCs. This study also suggests the differential effect of the odorants on the PMCA; odorant solutions, which trigger specific second messengers, cAMP and IP3, affect PMCA function.

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Kaci Haines

Investigating the Effects of Embryonic Sensory Experience on Fetal Development

The objective was to examine the timecourse of chick olfactory system development using anatomical and behavioral techniques.  Chick eggs take 21 days to develop and hatch.  The olfactory system begins to develop at embryonic day eight (E8) and is functional at hatching, but the timecourse of this development is poorly understood.  This timeline of development can be examined both at the cellular level by, observing protein expression patterns in the chick brain, and at the behavioral level, by studying chick odor imprinting.  Two different odorants, amyl acetate and phenylethyl alcohol were added at varying timepoints to developing chicks in ovo.  The expression pattern of the immediate early gene cFos, resulting from the odorant’s stimulation, was visualized to determine if the neural circuitry in the chick brain is developed in the embryo.  This development was also measured behaviorally: when exposed to odors in ovo, newly-hatched chicks will potentially be attracted to these familiar odors.  Odor imprinting in newborn chicks exposed to the two test odorants was studied using a Y-maze to determine if a preference for familiar odorants exists.  The results suggest that amyl acetate results in maximal cFos expression beginning around E16 and increasing until hatching, but that phenylethyl alcohol exposure causes only baseline activity, similar to chicks exposed to no odor. This neuronal activity is not necessarily indicative of imprinting, as conflicting and inconsistent behavioral results illustrate.

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Allison Greco

Hypoxic and hyperoxic stress-induced hypertrophy in cultured chick fetal cardiac myocytes

The adult heart responds to increased contraction demands by hypertrophy, or enlargement, of cardiac myocytes. Hypertrophy can occur in response to both physiological factors (generally resulting in hyperoxic conditions and cause adaptation), or pathological factors (typically resulting in hypoxic conditions which cause heart failure). The difference in the outcomes produced by pathologically- versus physiologically- induced hypertrophy suggests that the cellular signaling pathways or conditions of myocytes may be different at the cellular level. The structural and functional changes in myocytes resulting from hyperoxia (simulated using hydrogen peroxide) and hypoxia (using oxygen deprivation) were tested on fetal chick cardiac myocytes grown in vitro. Isolated myocytes grown for 2 days were exposed to stressors, then grown for an additional 1 to 6 days. Structural changes were measured using immunostaining for sarcomeric actin or MyoD (a transcription factor that regulates myosin production). Functional changes were assessed using immunostaining for calcium-calmodulin kinase (CaMK) or by measuring intracellular calcium fluxes using live cell fluorescence imaging. Hypo- or hyperoxic stress resulted in an up-regulation of actin and MyoD expression, indicating hypertrophy. However, these structural rearrangements occurring are not in themselves detrimental. Similarly, voltage-gated channels and the regulation of myosin activation by CaMK are unchanged by hyper- or hypoxic conditions. The changes in transcription regulation causing such structural changes may affect components of ligand-activated signaling pathways, and subsequent stimulations of myoctes may result in a depletion of calcium stores in the sarcoplasmic reticulum. Although this study does not indicate whether the observed changes to signaling cascades or calcium stores are beneficial or detrimental, it does suggest that changes in signaling pathways, rather than structural organization, may cause the fatal outcomes associated with pathologically-induced hypertrophy.

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