Grad Students Dance for Science Magazine Competition

Grad Students Dance for Science Magazine Competition

Once again this year, grad students in Maria DeRosa’s chemistry lab are competing in the Dance Your PhD competition for Science Magazine.

Grad Student Erin McConnell notes that: “We danced my research this year and we’ve made it into the finals again! It is a little bit different this year in that there are four finalists for each category from which a winner for each category and then an overall winner will be chosen.”

To view all of the videos, go to: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/10/dancing-to-epigenetics-and-endoc.html

The DeRosa lab at Carleton is interested in the development of DNA aptamers that can eventually be used as the foundation of innovative tools to understand, diagnose and treat mental health disease. Aptamers, are single strands of DNA that bind specifically to a target. McConnell’s research focuses on the development of a DNA aptamer that binds to dopamine, a chemical in the brain, and the use of that aptamer within the central nervous system. Dopamine is involved in learning, memory, emotion and movement. In humans, too much dopamine is associated with diseases like schizophrenia. If you increase the dopamine level in a rat’s brain, by giving the rat a drug like MK-801, you disrupt the way the rat processes information and behaves. Doing this creates an animal model that allows scientists to study different aspects of mental health disease. Administering an aptamer that binds to dopamine blocks the action of extra dopamine so that it cannot affect the brain. With the aptamer present, the rats think and behave normally again. The team’s research suggests that aptamers could potentially be used as therapeutics and that they can be used as tools to help understand what is happening in a brain affected by mental health disease.

The video is filmed from the point of view of a scientist watching an experiment. The important results of the experiment are the following; the rats are given MK-801 and as dopamine (red shirts) increases the rats’ behaviour (dance style) changes. When the rats are treated with the aptamer (white shirts), the aptamer interacts with dopamine so that dopamine levels go back to normal, and the rats’ behaviour goes back to normal.

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