FUTURE in Biomedicine

  • Better Futures for Iowans Program

    Through the FUTURE in Biomedicine program, the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine is committed to:

    • Fostering closer research collaborations between its faculty and those of primarily undergraduate institutions throughout the state of Iowa.
    • Mentoring talented undergraduates who will be our next generation of physicians and biomedical scientists.
    • Promoting opportunities to translate biomedical discoveries and methods into educational materials used in Iowa's college classrooms.
    • Making its research facilities available to a statewide network of scientist-educators.

    Consistent with these commitments, the goal of the Better Futures for Iowans program was to make state-of-the-art core reseach facilities at the University of Iowa available to academic classes and research projects conducted primarily by undergraduates at 2-year and 4-year institutions in Iowa.

    Faculty throughout the state were eligible to apply for small grants to support laboratory-intensive projects involving undergraduate students in "hands-on" inquiry.  Students took responsibility for the preparation of samples and analysis of data obtained.  All participants were invited to present a poster about their work at the FUTURE in Biomedicine Research Symposium.  This activity, which was supported primarily by the Office of the Provost, extended University resources to Iowans and addressed an important goal of the University Strategic Plan - to provide better futures for Iowans.

     

    2013 Grant Recipients

    COE
    COLLEGE
     
    Paul Storer, PhD
    Assistant Professor of Biology  
    Expression of CGRP and procalcitonin by an astrocyte cell line: implications for migraine  
    DORDT
    COLLEGE
    Robbin Eppinga, PhD
    Assistant Professor of Biology  
    Identification of Myosin Va Interacting Proteins Using a Yeast-Two-Hybrid Assay  
    DRAKE
    UNIVERSITY
    Abebe Mengesha, PhD
    Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Administrative Sciences
    Thermosensitive monoglycerides blend for local delivery of chemotherapeutic agents
     Adina Kilpatrick, PhD
    Assistant Professor of Physics
    Thermodynamic analysis of the calmodulin - ryanodine receptor interaction using FRET
    Jerry Honts, PhD
    Associate Professor of Biology
    Confocal Laser Scanning Fluorescence Microscopy of GFP-Tgged Cytoskeletal Proteins in Tetrahymena
    LUTHER
    COLLEGE
     
    S. Brookhart Shields, PhD
    Assistant Professor of Biology  
    Identification of Receptors Involved in the Autophagic Pathway in Yeast  
    MOUNT MERCY
    UNIVERSITY
     
    Alesia Hruska-Hageman, PhD
    Assistant Professor of Biology
    Identifying candidate genes causing glaucoma by protein interactions using a yeast 2-hybrid screen
     Joseph Nguyen, PhD
    Assistant Professor of Chemistry  
    Characterizing dual infection and superinfection inhibition with confocal and electron microscopy
    SIMPSON
    COLLEGE
     
    Jackie Brittingham, PhD
    Professor of Biology  
    The role of Wnts in axis patterning of Nematostella, the starlet sea anemone
    WALDORF
    COLLEGE
    Gary Coombs, PhD
    Assistant Professor of Biology
    Identification of Actinomycetes from Amazon river basin soil samples by 16S rRNA sequencing

    Coe College - Paul Storer, PhD

    "Undergraduate students were utilized to process cultured C8-D1A astrocytes (ATCC) for fluorescent immunocytochemistry targeting proteins responsible for the uptake and maintenance of glutamate levels in the extracellular space.  The effect of estrogen treatment on the levels of these proteins was determined in an effort to elucidate the neuroprotective influence of estrogen in conditions of traumatic injury and neurodegeneration.

    These students were involved with all levels of protocol, sgtarting from the establishment of the sterile cultures to the final analysis.  The students are trained to master skills and protocols and then consequently be able to work in an independent manner to analyze results and present results in various form.  The work they did on the confocoal microscope at CMRF was the culmination of weeks of training and independent research that really gave these students a unique experience that we feel is so speical here at Coe College."

    Paul Storer, PhD
    BFFI Awardee

    "The three dimensional tool that took pictures of various slices of the cells also aided us in visualizing the cells and understanding the results received from the microscope at Coe College.  The opportunity to visit the University of Iowa and use the confocal microscope was a great experience that allowed us to enjoy learning new techniques that we could then use to aid in our research later."

    Haley Sandoe
    Undergraduate Researcher

    "Using the confocal microscope at the University of Iowa wa sa great experience.  We had made slides with NIH-3T3 Fibroblasts and astrocytes, staining with Connexin and anti-Actin antibodies; these slides were viewed on the microscope, and the images we were able to capture were very good."

    Ryan Lechtenberg
    Undergraduate Researcher

     

    Dordt College - Robbin Eppinga, PhD

    "Our undergraduate students studied a collection of clones from an initial Y2H screen for proteins that interact with a myosin protein.  Each student was assigned 3 clones in yeast, which they characterized by doing plasmid isolation from yeast, transformation of E. coli, plasmid isolation and quantitation, restriction analysis, DNA sequencing (conducted at the University of Iowa DNA Core), and BLAST analysis to identify and characterize the clones.

    The students operated in teams, using the lab space on a staggered schedule depending on their level of experience.  This approach allowed them to take ownership of their projects, troubleshoot problems, and learn techniques independently.  By staggering the use of lab space and facilities, more of them could work on their own, while less experienced students could use the regular time block with more instructor availability.

    This lab was a positive learning experience. The students got a better feel for the nature of scientific research, gained independence in the lab and were more invested in obtaining results than in a standard undergraduate 3-hour laboratory exercise."

    Robbin Eppinga, PhD
    BFFI Awardee

     

    Drake University - Abebe Mengesha, PhD

    "The goal of the project was to design a stimuli-sensitive, monoglycerides-based local drug delivery system that can be triggered externally to release the chemotherapeutic agents 'on-demand' so as to improve treatment and reduce toxicities.

    Students have actively and meaningfully participated in various areas of the project including: evaluation of the matrix for thermo-responsive properties; characterization of polymorphism and crystal behavior; assessment of the phase behavior; and investigation of the effect of drugs, excipients and moisture on those properties.  The following Drake undergraduate students were involved in the project: Mallory Tough, Natalie Benson, Hannah Stonewall, Paul Choeun.

    Student Paul Choeun worked in the lab using differential scanning caloritmetry (DSC) equipment. Student Mallory Tough presented a poster at DUCURUS. The poster was also presented at IAS 2013, FUTURE in Biomedicine Symposium 2013 and AAPS 2013. I participated and presented a poster at the FUTURE in Biomedicine symposium."

    Abebe Mengesha, PhD
    BFFI Awardee

     

    Drake University - Adina Kilpatrick, PhD

    "The goal of this project was to understand the energetics of interactions between the calcium-binding protein calmodulin (CaM) and the calmoduling-binding domain of the ion channel ryanodine receptor (RyR).  The equilibrium constants of CaM binding to various sequences in the RyR CaM-binding domain are determined using FRET (Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer) in a biosensor containing yellow and cyan fluorescent proteins."

    Adina Kilpatrick, PhD
    BFFI Awardee

    "This year was my first true research experience and it was cool to be part of a team that is just starting a project.  This project aims to develop a system to analyze calmodulin recognition of the ryanodine receptor using Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) in a biosensor construct.  Once a construct is developed, we can use FRET to determine how calmodulin interacts with the ryanodine receptor in abnormal situations, such as when there is a mutation in the calmodulin sequence.  Without the generous Better Futures for Iowans grant for the biosensor, we would not have been able to start this project."

    Amanda Marwitz
    Undergraduate Researcher

    "Before this past semester, I had no experience in a research setting.  What I enjoyed most about this experience was being able to use things that I'd learned in other classes and apply them in the research setting.  Concepts and techniques taught in class are sometimes hard to picture in a real world setting, so it was cool to see them put to use.  It was also interesting to see that using these techniques is not always as easy as they sound.  There is a lot of trial and error involved in research that I didn't expect."

    Alex Wagner
    Undergraduate Researcher

     

    Drake University - Jerry Honts, PhD

    "Using mass spectrometry, we have identified the genes encoding about three dozen different proteins in the membrane-associated cytoskeleton of the ciliated protozoan Tetrahymena.  Of these, more than half have been engineered to be tagged with variants of Green Fluorescent Protein.  While all of these have been analyzed by means of conventional epifluorescence microscopy, it is often difficult to assess the full distribution of protein within these large cells at high magnification because of the narrow focal plane.  High resolution 3D imaging of a cell can be accomlished by means of confocal laser scanning fluorescence microscopy.

    To do this we used the Bio-Rad Radiance 2100 MP (Carl Zeiss Microimaging Inc.) mounted to a Nikon E800 microscope in the Central Microscopy Research Facility in the Eckstein Medical Research Building.  Initial data from this study was presented at the Midwest Protozoology meeting at Bradley University in late April.  This data was also presented at FUTURE in Biomedicine symposium in July and at the ASCB national meeting in December.  An invited talk based on this research was given at the Iowa Microscopy Society meeting in Iowa City in October."

    Jerry Honts, PhD
    BFFI Awardee

    "The opportunity to use the confocal microscope at the University of Iowa was a privilege.  This experience allowed me to use a piece of equipment which is too costly for other universities.  Confocal microscopy is an imaging technique which increases resolution through the blocking of background light.  This gives confocal microscopy several advantages over other types of microscopy.

    To obtain high quality images, I had to learn and understand what to tweak on the program.  I developed an understanding of hwne to change the gain, pin hole, iris, and laser strength to collect quality data.  These adjustments really made me apply the concepts that I learned during training.  Through the use of the microscope, I left with a much clearer view of the distribution of different cytoskeletal proteins in Tetrahymena thermophila.  The data that was collected then was used to make movies and three dimensional models through Imaris."

    Robert Sterner
    Undergraduate Researcher

     

    Luther College - S. Brookhart Shields, PhD

    "This research project focused on identifying the proteins that are required for the autophagy in yeast.  Autophagy, or 'self-eating', is the process in which a cell engulfs cytosol or organelles within a vesicle that then fuses with the vacuole, the same organelle as the mammalian lysosome.  Once within the vacuole, the vesicles and their contents are broken down and recycled for reuse by the cell.

    The BFFI grant provided important support in the beginning stages of this project.  The grant funded the sequencing of several of the necessary plasmids that are the founation of the project.  Additionally, the grant was used to purchase DNA oligonucleotides used to construct and sequence plasmids.  Two students, Julia Mandsager and Sarah Floden, have been involved in all aspect of this project.  Both students were surprised by how quick it was to get such large volumes of data from the DNA Facility.  It has taken quite a bit of time to analyze the data obtained but both students are now quite proficient at it."

    S. Brookhart Shields, PhD
    BFFI Awardee

     

    Mount Mercy University - Alesia Hruska-Hageman, PhD

    "The goals of the project were to identify candidate genes causing glaucoma by identifying potential proteins that interact with the protein SH3PXD2B by performing a yeast two-hybrid screen.  My student, James Estipona, and I discussed how to design a cloning strategy with the plasmids we had from the yeast two-hybrid kit and the plasmids containing sequences from Kacie Meyer, a postdoc in Michael Anderson's lab at the University of Iowa.  James designed primers to use for the cloning and upon confirmation, they were ordered and he began cloning the bait plasmid for the yeast two-hybrid screen.

    He designed and began cloning two different bait plasmids that would contain two different SH3 domains of SH3PXD2B and mutations of these domains.  James performed all the steps in the cloning strategy and we periodically discussed progress, any trouble shooting to try, and he was always asked to interpret his results.  Ligation reactions produced plasmids that were transformed into bacteria, minipreps were prepared, and James checked for the insert in the plasmid by restriction enzyme digest.  Once we had confirmation of the insert, James prepared reactions for DNA sequencing at the University of Iowa DNA Facility.

    James has presented his research as an oral presentation at Mount Mercy University's Scholarship festival this spring 2013.  He will be presenting a poster on his new findings on Aug. 2nd at the FUTURE in Biomedicine Research Symposium.  James has funding form the R.J. McElroy Trust to continue to work on this research project during the school year and will present any new findings at their spring 2014 symposium and at the Annual Iowa Academy of Science meeting in April 2014."

    Alesia Hruska-Hageman, PhD
    BFFI Awardee

     

    Mount Mercy University - Joseph Nguyen, PhD

    "The purpose of this project was to study and characterize the dual infection and superinfection inhibition of cells using scanning confocal microscopy and transmission electron microscopy.  Hosts can be infected with multiple herpesviruses, known as superinfection; however, superinfection of cells is rare due to the phenomenon knowns as superinfection inhibition.

    Superinfections is believed to be one factor that has helped many viruses to become more virulent, especially to vaccinations.  If we can understand the role that dual infection and superinfection has on the viral replication cycle, we can see how it has led to greater virulence over a short period of time. Thus, characterizing and understanding dual infection and superinfection inhibition of cells is an essential first step to better understand how MDV is evolving as to increase the effectiveness of vaccines.

    Recently, fluorescently tagged viruses were developed so they can be tracked in the feather follicle epithelial skin cells for easy identification.  However, it is essential to better identify the viruses infecting the feather follicles using transmission electron microscropy (TEM).  Thus, it is important for us to be able to correlate the information obtained from confocal microscopy with those obtained with electron microscopy, and our work is one of the first attempts to correlate information from both techniques."

    Joseph Nguyen, PhD
    BFFI Awardee

     

     Simpson College - Jackie Brittingham, PhD

    "During the Fall of 2012 and Spring of 2013 undergraduates Maddie Besack and John Greaves investigated the molecular cues directing diploblastic development in the starlet sea anemone, Nematostella vectensis.  They mastered the unique animal handling techniques, essential elements of the experimental design and data acquisition approaches for investigating the cues responsible for patterning during embryonic development in this interesting novel model organism.

    The main goals for the students were to expand their understanding of the embryonic anatomy of this unusual organism and begin to dissect the molecular pathways directing its unique body plan.  Confocal microscopy enabled them to understand the three dimensional anatomical complexity of this organism and identify aberrant morphogenic patterns in a manner that was not possible at Simpson College.

    Without a doubt, the BFFI grant and the access to the CMRF facilities at the University of Iowa were key to enabling John and Maddie to characterize never-before seen morphogenetic changes in this organism in response to powerful disruptions of development.  These results were not only exciting to the members of my research laboratory, but have the potential to be of significance to other work in this discipline.

    The BFFI grant allowed two very motivated undergraduate students the opportunity to not only learn the basics of confocal microscopy, but also provided them with the opportunity to dream about how this technology might direct their future research.  They now understand how to design experiments that can exploit the powers of confocal microscopy to visualize the morphology of embryos during both normal and abnormal development."

    Jackie Brittingham, PhD
    BFFI Awardee

    "Maddie and I made a great team for this project.  We are both very motivated students and together we were very successful and got a lot accomplished.  I would have to say my most exciting moment of the project was getting to use the confocal microscope at the University of Iowa, but a close second was presenting at the Simpson Symposium in front of my peers and the faculty members.  Thank you very much!"

    John Greaves
    Undergraduate Researcher

     

     Waldorf College - Gary Coombs, PhD

    "A portion of the funds awarded were used to sequence 16S rRNA genes from novel microorganisms and a collection of actinomycetes isolated from soil collected in the Amazon River basin, Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, Peru. These soil microbe studies were directed by Ashley Lutrick, as a senior research project.  Students enrolled in the Spring 2013 Genetics course (Anson Frederick, Jessica Godwin, Andrew Hudson, and Delroy Nichols) participated as well.

    These students tested several methods of purifying genomic DNA samples for PCR of each microbe's 16S rRNA gene.  Ashley used the sequencing data from the University of Iowa DNA Facility to conduct searches in NCBI Blast, and tentatively identify each species or most closely related species.  One actinomycete isolated in these studies is of particular interest.  It is white, or cream colored, and secretes a water soluble orange pigment.  In screens for antibacterial activity, it was found to kill or inhibit growth of a methicillin resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus, and to kill or inhibit growth of Streptococcus pyogenes with exceptionally high potency by the Kirby Bauer assay.

    The remaining funds were used to sequence 16S rRNA genes from anaeorbes isolated from soil samples also collected in the Amazon River basin, Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, Peru.  These samples were collected by Samantha Sylvara from locations that span a range of altitudes within a flood plain.  All PCR reactions were successful and 48 sequences were submitted for sequencing.  BLAST searches and analyses are currently underway."

    Gary Coombs, PhD
    BFFI Awardee