The work of an undergraduate biology student from the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) may help to increase the medical field’s understanding of how to combat leukemia, after being honored this month at a national student research conference.
At this year’s Sigma Xi Student Research Conference, UNO student Brittany Conroy was honored with a first place award in “Physiology and Immunology” for her work with fellow student Matthew Latner on the role of the antibody Caveolin-1 (CAV1) in adaptive immune responses to blood-born cancers like leukemia.
Conroy and Latner's project is an example of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) research being done by students and faculty across campus. In 2012, STEM education was named one of UNO's top campus priorities.
This research is a collaborative project including biological data analyses, gene expression profiling and computational biology to determine how CAV1 helps regulate the immune response in a subset of white blood cells known as T lymphocytes or “T cells.”
The study is the first to produce a computational model of CAV1 in a CD4+ T cell. CD4+ T cells are an even further subset of cells that trigger the body’s immune system.
Based on the team’s research, overexpression of CAV1 in CD4+ T cells may be an early sign of the existence of cancerous cells like those that cause leukemia.
One reason for the team’s success was that the study’s dual-method approach of computerized modeling and biological response modeling is fairly uncommon in the research world; however, the mixed method approach helps to increase the study’s reliability.
The first place victory is particularly important given that The Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society includes many members of the National Academy of Sciences and has been in existence since 1886. The UNO students’ presentation was chosen as best, one of only five awards in the undergraduate division.
Conroy is a student in the lab of Christine Cutucache, Ph.D., at UNO. Latner is now a student at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC).
This presentation is part of an ongoing collaboration with labs of Tomas Helikar, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and Paul Davis, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biology at UNO.
For a full list of winners from this year’s Sigma Xi conference, please visit the conference website at http://www.sigmaxi.org/meetings/src/2013src.shtml.
For more information please contact Charley Reed, UNO media relations coordinator, at email@example.com or by phone at 402.554.2129.