Two Oregon High School students and Boz research immersion scholars, Angela Zhao (fall 2020) and Natalie Olander (summer 2020), competed in the translational and basic research categories respectively at the Oregon Bio Digital conference – Pitch & Partner 2020 event. Angela’s presentation entitled Putting the Brakes on Parkinson’s Disease from work done as an intern at the VA Portland Healthcare System. Natalie presented the research she worked on at Boz, the Effects of HFPO-DA Stress on C. Elegans. Natalie and Angela were two high school students among 19 competitors including graduate students, scientists and entrepreneurs competing for prizes in four categories at the three-day virtual bioscience conference.
Pitch & Partner 2020 abstract and recorded presentation: Natalie Olander – Effects of HFPO-DA Stress on C. Elegans
We are exposed to many chemicals, some of which can negatively affect our aging process and disease onset (e.g. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases). This study concerns chemical stress from GenX. GenX, or hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer-acid (HFPO-DA), is a chemical used in manufacturing and can be found in the environment as well as in manufactured products. The goal of this study is to identify the effects of GenX at the molecular level to better understand how the exposure of this chemical stress could possibly lead to protein aggregation and thus premature aging. To do this, effects of GenX on gene expression in the model organism C.elegans were studied.
Pitch & Partner 2020 abstract and recorded presentation: Angela Zhao – Putting the Brakes on Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is marked by the loss of dopaminergic (DA) cells in the brain, causing motor symptoms like bradykinesia, tremors, and rigidity. For severe cases, deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical procedure that utilizes the insertion of electrodes into brain regions to activate neurons. This appears to stimulate remaining neurons and excite axonal branching, inhibiting further DA cell death and leading to symptomatic relief. There is currently no cure or means of slowing the disease progression. Early-stage DBS coupled with regular exercise may lead to significant recovery of DA, motor dysfunction relief, and modification of disease progression. Because past studies have been largely inconclusive, this study involves scanning for biomarkers of remaining DA nerve terminals (i.e., DA transporter) to indicate slowed deterioration of striatal DA levels and to corroborate motor recovery. Ultimately, this project can prove early-stage DBS and exercise is the ideal combination that will slow the progression of PD.