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Immunological Responses to the White-Nose Syndrome Pathogen and their Potential Use as Control

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White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a fungal infection devastating bat populations throughout eastern North America. WNS is caused by a fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), that invades the skin of hibernating bats. While there are a number of treatments being researched, there

White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a fungal infection devastating bat populations throughout eastern North America. WNS is caused by a fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), that invades the skin of hibernating bats. While there are a number of treatments being researched, there is currently no effective treatment for WNS that is deployed in the field, except a few being tested on a limited scale. Bats have lowered immune function and response during hibernation, which may increase susceptibility to infection during the winter months. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are a crucial component of the innate immune system and serve as barriers against infection. AMPs are constitutively expressed on skin and facilitate wound healing, stimulate other immune responses, and may also stay active on bat skin during hibernation. AMPs are expressed by all tissues, have direct killing abilities against microbes, and are a potential treatment for bats infected with Pd. In this investigation, the fungicidal activity of several readily available commercial AMPs were compared, and killing assay protocols previously investigated by Frasier and Lake were replicated to establish a control trial for use in future killing assays. Another aim of this investigation was to synthesize a bat-derived AMP for use in the killing assay. Sequences of bat-derived AMPs have been identified in bat skin samples obtained from a large geographic sampling of susceptible and resistant species. Contact was made with GenScript Inc., the company from which commercially available AMPs were purchased, to determine the characteristics of peptide sequences needed to synthesize an AMP for lab use. Based on recommendations from GenScript Inc., peptide sequences need to have a hydrophobicity of less than 50% and a sequence length of less than 50 amino acids. These criteria serve as a potential barrier because none of the known bat-derived sequences analyzed satisfy both of these requirements. The final aim of this study was to generate a conceptual model of the immune response molecules activated when bats are exposed to a fungal pathogen such as Pd. Overall, this work investigated sources of variability between trials of the killing assay, analyzed known bat-derived peptide sequences, and generated a conceptual model that will serve as a guideline for identification of immune response molecules on the skin of bats in future proteomics work.

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2019-05

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Can the phytohemagglutinin challenge be used to predict disease severity in a host?

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Phytohemagglutinin (PHA) is a plant lectin commonly used to stimulate and test responses of the immune system and is known to induce T cell proliferation, agglutinate human leukocytes, and yield adjustments in lymphocyte populations. What is not well know is

Phytohemagglutinin (PHA) is a plant lectin commonly used to stimulate and test responses of the immune system and is known to induce T cell proliferation, agglutinate human leukocytes, and yield adjustments in lymphocyte populations. What is not well know is how responses to PHA correlate with a host's ability to resist or recover from pathogen invasion. This study uses information from previously published studies to determine whether or not PHA can be a good indicator of disease severity or disease resistance in a host. With PHA having the abilities that it does, immune responses to PHA may correlate with responses important for pathogen resistance and clearance. Such a relationship could only be uncovered if in vivo or in vitro responses to PHA are measured and, independent from the PHA challenge, symptoms and/or mortality rates of hosts are documented after pathogen exposure. An in vitro response can be detected by measuring cellular proliferation in response to PHA followed by separate cell cultures exposed to a pathogen. While an in vivo response can be detected by measuring variation in swelling in response to an injection of PHA. In reviewing a broad range of articles that meet my criteria, the majority of articles failed to show a strong relationship between PHA and disease severity or disease resistance. Therefore, immunologists must consider the usefulness of the PHA tests as a measure of immunocompetence, which is a host's ability to predict response to a pathogen. According to the literature, using PHA does not predict responses to pathogen invasion. However, it is possible that with carefully designed experiments, it could be determined that PHA does provide an indication of pathogen resistance in certain host species exposed to specific pathogen.

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2017-05

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Vaccine Essentials: How They Came To Be, Why They Are Necessary, and Why Vaccine Hesitancy Exists

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Vaccines are modern medicine’s best way of combating the majority of viral and bacterial illnesses and contagions to date. Thanks to the introduction of vaccines since the first uses of them in 1796 (Jenner’s smallpox vaccine), they have drastically reduced

Vaccines are modern medicine’s best way of combating the majority of viral and bacterial illnesses and contagions to date. Thanks to the introduction of vaccines since the first uses of them in 1796 (Jenner’s smallpox vaccine), they have drastically reduced figures of disease worldwide, turning once lethal and life changing conditions into minor annoyances; Some of these afflictions have even become nonexistent or even extinct in certain parts of the world outside of a controlled laboratory setting. With many advancements and overwhelming evidence proving their efficiency, it is clear that vaccines have become nothing less than a necessity for everyday healthcare in today’s world. <br/>The greatest contributor to the creation and evolution of vaccines throughout the years is by far the progress and work done in the field of molecular and cellular biology. These advancements have become the bedrock of modern vaccination, as shown by the differing types of vaccines and their methodology. The most common varieties of vaccines are include ‘dead’ or inactivated vaccines, one such example being the pertussis strain of vaccines, which have either dead or torn apart cells for the body to easily fight off, allowing the immune system to easily and quickly counter the illness; Additionally, there are also live attenuated vaccines (LAVs) in which a weaker version of the pathogen is introduced to the body to stimulate an immune response, or a recombinant mRNA vaccine where mRNA containing the coding for an antigen is presented for immunological response, the latter being what the current COVID-19 vaccines are based on. This is in part aided by the presence of immunological adjuvants, antigens and substances that the immune system can recognize, target, and remember for future infections. However, for more serious illnesses the body needs a bigger threat to analyze, which leads to live vaccines- instead of dead or individual components of a potential pathogen, a weakened version is created in the lab to allow the body to combat it. The idea behind this is the same, but to a larger degree so a more serious illness such as measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) do not infect us.<br/>However, for the past couple of decades the public’s views on vaccination has greatly varied, with the rise of fear and disinformation leading those to believe that modern medicine is a threat in disguise. The largest of these arguments began in the late 90’s, when Dr. Andrew Wakefield published an article under the Lancet with false information connecting vaccinations to the occurrence of autism in younger children- a theory which has since then been proven incorrect numerous times over. Unfortunately, the rise of hysteria and paranoia in people, along with more misinformation from misleading sources, have strengthened the anti-vaccination cause and has made it into a serious threat to the health of those world-wide.<br/>The aim of this thesis is to provide an accurate and thorough analysis on these three themes- the history of vaccines, their inner workings and machinations in providing immune defenses for the body, and the current controversy of the anti-vaccination movement. Additionally, there will be two other sections going in-depth on two specific areas where vaccination is highly important; The spread and fear of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has been around for nearly four decades, so it begs the question: what makes this such a difficult virus, and how can a vaccine be created to combat it? Additionally, in the last year the world has encountered a new virus that has evolved into a global pandemic, SARS-COV 2. This new strain of coronavirus has shown itself to be highly contagious and rapidly mutating, and the race to quickly develop a vaccine to counteract it has been on-going since its first major infections in Wuhan, China. Overall, this thesis will go in-depth in providing the most accurate, up-to-date, and critical information regarding vaccinations today.

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2021-05

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The Origins of America’s Longest War: Drug Use, Racism, Propaganda, and Prohibition Before the War on Drugs

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The United States’ War on Drugs declared in 1971 by President Richard Nixon and revamped by President Reagan in the 1980s has been an objectively failed initiative with origins based in racism and oppression. After exploring the repercussions of this

The United States’ War on Drugs declared in 1971 by President Richard Nixon and revamped by President Reagan in the 1980s has been an objectively failed initiative with origins based in racism and oppression. After exploring the repercussions of this endeavor for societies and individuals around the world, global researchers and policymakers have declared that the policies and institutions created to fight the battle have left devastation in their wake. Despite high economic and social costs, missed opportunities in public health and criminal justice sectors, and increasing limits on our personal freedoms, all the measures taken to eradicate drug abuse and trafficking have been unsuccessful. Not only that, but militarized police tactics, mass incarceration, and harsh penalties that stifle opportunities for rehabilitation, growth, and change disproportionately harm poor and minority communities. <br/>Because reform in U.S. drug policy is badly needed, the goals of America’s longest war need to be reevaluated, implications of the initiative reexamined, and alternative strategies reconsidered. Solutions must be propagated from a diverse spectrum of contributors and holistic understanding through scientific research, empirical evidence, innovation, public health, social wellbeing, and measurable outcomes. But before we can know where we should be headed, we need to appreciate how we got to where we are. This preliminary expository investigation will explore and outline the history of drug use and prohibition in the United States before the War on Drugs was officially declared. Through an examination of the different patterns of substance use, evolving civil tolerance of users, racially-charged anti-drug misinformation/propaganda campaigns, and increasingly restrictive drug control policies, a foundation for developing solutions and strengths-based strategies for drug reform will emerge.

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2021-05