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Teaching Biology in a Maximum-Security Prison Unit: Feedback, Notes and Recommendations from a Pilot Class

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We, a team of students and faculty in the life sciences at Arizona State University (ASU), currently teach an Introduction to Biology course in a Level 5, or maximum-security unit

We, a team of students and faculty in the life sciences at Arizona State University (ASU), currently teach an Introduction to Biology course in a Level 5, or maximum-security unit with the support of the Arizona Department of Corrections and the Prison Education Program at ASU. This course aims to enhance current programs at the unit by offering inmates an opportunity to practice literacy and math skills, while also providing exposure to a new academic field (science, and specifically biology). Numerous studies, including a 2005 study from the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC), have found that vocational programs, including prison education programs, reduce recidivism rates (ADC 2005, Esperian 2010, Jancic 1988, Steurer et al. 2001, Ubic 2002) and may provide additional benefits such as engagement with a world outside the justice system (Duguid 1992), the opportunity for inmates to revise personal patterns of rejecting education that they may regret, and the ability of inmate parents to deliberately set a good example for their children (Hall and Killacky 2008). Teaching in a maximum security prison unit poses special challenges, which include a prohibition on most outside materials (except paper), severe restrictions on student-teacher and student-student interactions, and the inability to perform any lab exercises except limited computer simulations. Lack of literature discussing theoretical and practical aspects of teaching science in such environment has prompted us to conduct an ongoing study to generate notes and recommendations from this class through the use of surveys, academic evaluation of students' work and ongoing feedback from both teachers and students to inform teaching practices in future science classes in high-security prison units.

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  • 2015-05

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The Development of a Plant-Expressed M2e-Based Universal Influenza Vaccine

Description

Influenza is a deadly disease for which effective vaccines are sorely lacking. This is largely due to the phenomena of antigenic shift and drift in the influenza virus's surface proteins,

Influenza is a deadly disease for which effective vaccines are sorely lacking. This is largely due to the phenomena of antigenic shift and drift in the influenza virus's surface proteins, hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA). The ectodomain of the matrix 2 protein (M2e) of influenza A, however, has demonstrated high levels of conservation. On its own it is poorly immunogenic and offers little protection against influenza infections, but by combining it with a potent adjuvant, this limitation may be overcome. Recombinant immune complexes, or antigens fused to antibodies that have been engineered to form incredibly immunogenic complexes with one another, were previously shown to be useful, immunogenic platforms for the presentation of various antigens and could provide the boost in immunogenicity that M2e needs to become a powerful universal influenza A vaccine. In this thesis, genetic constructs containing geminiviral replication proteins and coding for a consensus sequence of dimeric M2e fused to antibodies featuring complimentary epitopes and epitope tags were generated and used to transform Agrobacterium tumefaciens. The transformed bacteria was then used to cause Nicotiana benthamiana to transiently express M2e-RICs at very high levels, with enough RICs being gathered to evaluate their potency in future mouse trials. Future directions and areas for further research are discussed.

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  • 2018-05

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Plant-derived Virus-like Particles and Recombinant Immune Complexes as Potential Components of a Future HIV Vaccine

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HIV continues to remain a global health issue, in particular in many low and middle-income countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that of the nearly 38 million HIV-1 positive

HIV continues to remain a global health issue, in particular in many low and middle-income countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that of the nearly 38 million HIV-1 positive individuals, 25% are unaware they are infected. Despite decades of research, a safe and effective preventative vaccine has yet to be produced. The HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein41 and the Gag structural protein have been identified to be particularly important in HIV-1 transcytosis and cytotoxic lymphocyte response, respectively. Enveloped virus-like particles (VLPs) consisting of Gag and a deconstructed form of glycoprotein (dgp41) comprising the membrane proximal external region (MPER), transmembrane domain and cytoplasmic tail may present a unique and safe way of presenting these proteins in a state mimicking their natural formation. Another form of presenting the immunogenic glycoprotein41, particularly the MPER component, is by presenting it onto the N-terminal of an IgG molecule, thereby creating an IgG fusion molecule. In our lab, both VLPs and IgG fusion molecules are highly expressed and purified within GnGn Nicotiana benthamiana. The results indicated that these recombinant proteins can be assembled properly within plants and can elicit an immune response in mice. This provides a preliminary step in using such Gag/dpg41 VLPs and RIC as present a safe, effective, and inexpensive HIV vaccine.

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  • 2020-05

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Improving expression vectors for recombinant protein production in plants

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Over the past decade, several high-value proteins have been produced using plant-based transient expression systems. However, these studies exposed some limitations that must be overcome to allow plant expression systems

Over the past decade, several high-value proteins have been produced using plant-based transient expression systems. However, these studies exposed some limitations that must be overcome to allow plant expression systems to reach their full potential. These limitations are the low level of recombinant protein accumulation achieved in some cases, and lack of efficient co-expression vectors for the production of multi-protein complexes. This study report that tobacco Extensin (Ext) gene 3' untranslated region (UTR) can be broadly used to enhance recombinant protein expression in plants. Extensin is the hydroxyproline-rich glycoprotein that constitutes the major protein component of cell walls. Using transient expression, it was found that the Ext 3' UTR increases recombinant protein expression up to 13.5- and 6-fold in non-replicating and replicating vector systems, respectively, compared to previously established terminators. Enhanced protein accumulation was correlated with increased mRNA levels associated with reduction in read-through transcription. Regions of Ext 3' UTR essential for maximum gene expression included a poly-purine sequence used as a major poly-adenylation site. Furthermore, modified bean yellow dwarf virus (BeYDV)-based vectors designed to allow co-expression of multiple recombinant genes were constructed and tested for their performance in driving transient expression in plants. Robust co-expression and assembly of heavy and light chains of the anti-Ebola virus monoclonal antibody 6D8, as well as E. coli heat-labile toxin (LT) were achieved with the modified vectors. The simultaneous co-expression of three fluoroproteins using the single replicon, triple cassette is demonstrated by confocal microscopy. In conclusion, this study provides an excellent tool for rapid, cost-effective, large-scale manufacturing of recombinant proteins for use in medicine and industry.

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  • 2012