It is crazy to think we are on week 7 out of our 10 weeks here at the UT Austin BME department! Research is a notoriously slow process, but many of us REU students are finally starting to get some meaningful data. Across the board, all of us have vastly improved our skills and knowledge in the lab and are enjoying are heightened independence within our individual projects. Now faced with the daunting task of reporting our results in an abstract and poster, we are all beginning to consolidate our work and practice those scientific communication skills we have been working on! 🙂
The REU students report their research progress and accomplishments so far:
Alston: I have seeded fibroblast cells and invasive breast cancer 231s cells onto my electrospun aligned and nonaligned fibers. I’m doing data analysis on the fibroblast cells to see the rate they proliferated.
Adiel: I have been examining the effects that stiffening has on macrophages in order to better understand how macrophages behave within the tumor microenvironment. This is being done by placing macrophages into alginate gels of different degrees of stiffness, and examining their behavior.
Hannah: I’ve been developing a new MATLAB algorithm to quantify inward movement and hopefully endocytosis. Right now we’re applying it to a cell line that’s drug resistant and treated with a certain kind of inhibitor, and we’re trying to test if the treated cells will show less inward movement in the trajectories we collect.
Dylan: I am developing a low-cost imaging system primarily using 3D printed parts. This system will utilize the Laser Speckle Contrast Imaging (LSCI) technique to track relative blood flow in the brain. This technique is used by physicians and researchers to observe how blood flow returns to damaged parts of the brain after the removal of tumors.
Nyrobi’s phantom gels
Emilio’s smart glasses
Dylan’s early model
Adiel’s macrophage gels
Rachel: I have been exploring how the changes in the stiffness of the microenvironment of breast cancer cells affects the cancer cells resistance to doxorubicin. So far this summer, I have seeded 3 experiments of the hydrogel based cell cultures in which I varied the dosages, acclimation times, and stiffness of the gels. Currently, I am performing Live/Dead assays to quantify the cancer cells response to doxorubucin.
Grant: I’ve been working on creating liposomal nanoparticles to create a better binding site between the two membranes that fuses them together. We achieve this fusion by mixing the lipids that make up the membrane with this one specific lipid called DOTAP which due to its charge is attracted to the cell membrane and causes the fusion. Over my experiments so far in the lab, our results have found that lipids composed of 8% DOTAP deliver the best out of any variety of concentrations. We were able to determine this by dying one of the lipids and then scanning the cells and seeing how many cells were determined to fluoresce.
Nyrobi: I am creating a tissue phantom to see how light can be manipulated in order to detect cancer noninvasively. I am using an imaging technique that is sensitive to scattering and absorption, and will allow us to accurately identify the boundaries of tumors. The first seven phantoms I made had bubbles that were too close to the phantom holes where the fluorescent dye will be. The last phantom made had very few, very small bubbles not close to the holes that would affect the results. Currently I’m making a new phantom with less scattering components in order to possibly see the fluorescent dye easier in the shorter phantom holes.
Daniel: I am working on how physical environment forces such as strain (stretch) affects the behavior of cancer cells. So far we have seen mix results, with some knockout and knockdown cancer cell lines exhibit more cell adhesion while others resemble more metastatic behavior.
Sydney: I compiled data about the interaction of PO4, cAMP and cGMP with different proteins then used that data to determine their most common interacting residues and atoms. I am using that data to isolate ligand residue interactions via Pymol then am running energy decomposition analysis to quantify the dominate forces in the interaction.
Compiled by Sydney Hutton, Stanford