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In Vitro Gametogenesis (IVG): Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) in Development

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In vitro gametogenesis (IVG) research has been growing in countries like Japan, US, and China after the development of stem cell research and other scientific advancements as well as because of the perception of infertility as a domestic and international

In vitro gametogenesis (IVG) research has been growing in countries like Japan, US, and China after the development of stem cell research and other scientific advancements as well as because of the perception of infertility as a domestic and international problem. IVG research’s progress has been deliberated internationally, with discussion of questions, challenges, and possibilities that have arisen and may arise in the future as the technology is adopted by different countries. The first section introduces the meaning of IVG, explains the importance of review by scientists and citizens for IVG, and describes a rise in infertility reported in multiple developed countries that could be addressed by IVG. The second section discusses IVG’s applications and implications using 5 ethical categories articulated by Obama’s Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues: Public Beneficence, Responsible Stewardship, Intellectual Freedom and Responsibility, Democratic Deliberation, and Justice and Fairness. These five ethical principles were intended for analysis of emerging technologies, and IVG is an emerging technology with possible integration into clinical settings. Among the principles, it seemed that a major weak point of inquiry concerns LGBT+ and disability inclusion, especially of gender dysphoric and transgender people who may experience higher rates of infertility and have a harder time conceiving due to a mix of discrimination, gender dysphoria, and infertility due to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) treatment or gender/sex reassignment surgeries (GRSs/SRSs) that may impair or remove reproductive body parts. A number of other ethical considerations arise about this technology.

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2019-05

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A protocol for Resolving Indeterminate Blood Phenotypes in Rhesus (Macaca mulatta) and Cynomolgus Macaques (M. fascicularis)

Description

Rhesus (Macaca mulatta) and cynomolgus (M. fascicularis) macaques are the most commonly used nonhuman primate models in biomedical research. It is therefore critical to correctly infer each study animal's ABO blood group phenotype to prevent fatal transfusion- and transplantation-induced immune

Rhesus (Macaca mulatta) and cynomolgus (M. fascicularis) macaques are the most commonly used nonhuman primate models in biomedical research. It is therefore critical to correctly infer each study animal's ABO blood group phenotype to prevent fatal transfusion- and transplantation-induced immune responses. While most macaques can be efficiently and accurately phenotyped using a DNA-based assay, we have identified some animals that are unable to be classified as type A, B, or AB and therefore exhibit an indeterminate phenotype. The purpose of this study was to develop a protocol for resolving indeterminate blood group phenotypes and consequently determine if these animals do indeed belong to an O blood phenotype. We attempted both direct and cloning-based sequencing of 21 animals phenotyped as A, B, AB, or indeterminate in order to assess variation at the functional mutation site in exon 7 of the macaque ABO gene. Although direct-from-PCR Sanger sequencing was unable to generate reliable sequence results, our cloned plasmid protocol yielded high quality sequences consistent with known blood group-specific alleles and as such can be used to identify informative polymorphisms at this locus.

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2018-05

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Role of Egr3 in Regulation of DNA Repair

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Egr3 is an immediate early gene transcription factor that shows genetic association with schizophrenia, and is found in decreased levels in the brains of schizophrenia patients. Schizophrenia patients also exhibit cognitive and memory deficits, both of which Egr3 has been

Egr3 is an immediate early gene transcription factor that shows genetic association with schizophrenia, and is found in decreased levels in the brains of schizophrenia patients. Schizophrenia patients also exhibit cognitive and memory deficits, both of which Egr3 has been shown to play a crucial role in. Additionally, high levels of DNA damage are found in the brains of schizophrenia patients. A recent study has shown that DNA damage occurs as a result of normal physiological activity in neurons and is required for induction of gene expression of a subset of early response genes. Also, failure to repair this damage can lead to gene expression in a constitutive switched on state. Egr3 knockout (Egr3-/-) mice show deficits in hippocampal synaptic plasticity and memory. We were interested in characterizing downstream targets of EGR3 in the hippocampus. To determine these targets, electroconvulsive seizure (ECS) was carried out in Egr3 -/- versus wild type (WT) mice, and a microarray study was first done in our lab. ECS maximally stimulates Egr3 expression and we hypothesized that there would be gene targets that are differentially expressed between Egr3 -/- and WT mice that had been subjected to ECS. Two separate analyses of the microarray yielded 65 common genes that were determined as being differentially expressed between WT and Egr3 -/- mice after ECS. Further Ingenuity Pathway Analysis of these 65 genes indicated the Gadd45 signaling pathway to be the top canonical pathway, with the top four pathways all being associated with DNA damage or DNA repair. A literature survey was conducted for these 65 genes and their associated pathways, and 12 of the 65 genes were found to be involved in DNA damage response and/or DNA repair. Validation of differential expression was then conducted for each of the 12 genes, in both the original male cohort used for microarray studies and an additional female cohort of mice. 7 of these genes validated through quantitative real time PCR (qRT-PCR) in the original male cohort used for the microarray study, and 4 validated in both the original male cohort and an independent female cohort. Bioinformatics analysis yielded predicted EGR3 binding sites in promoters of these 12 genes, validating their role as potential transcription targets of EGR3. These data reveal EGR3 to be a novel regulator of DNA repair. Further studies will be needed to characterize the role of Egr3 in repairing DNA damage.

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2018-05

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Characterizing the Mechanism of Action of a Potential Targeted Therapy, Triptolide, in Small Cell Carcinoma of the Ovary

Description

Small cell carcinoma of the ovary (SCCOHT) is a rare ovarian cancer affecting young women and characterized by mutation in SMARCA4 and silencing of SMARCA2, two tumor suppressors that function as ATPases in the SWItch/Sucrose Non-Fermentable (SWI/SNF) chromatin remodeling complex.

Small cell carcinoma of the ovary (SCCOHT) is a rare ovarian cancer affecting young women and characterized by mutation in SMARCA4 and silencing of SMARCA2, two tumor suppressors that function as ATPases in the SWItch/Sucrose Non-Fermentable (SWI/SNF) chromatin remodeling complex. SCCOHT patients face a 5-year survival rate of only 26%, but recently we have identified sensitivity of SCCOHT models to a natural product, triptolide. This study aims to ascertain the mechanism of action of triptolide. Previous SCCOHT epigenetic drug research has shown that some drugs reverse SMARCA2 epigenetic silencing to inhibit tumor growth, therefore it is hypothesized that triptolide acts the same and restores SWI/SNF function. Cells treated with triptolide have no change in SMARCA2 expression, suggesting that re-expression of epigenetically silenced tumor suppressor gene does not underlie its mechanism of action. Growth rates following triptolide treatment were observed in the presence and absence of SMARCA4, but no difference in sensitivity was observed. Thus, it is not likely that triptolide acts by restoring SWI/SNF. Others have observed that triptolide acts on xeroderma pigmentosa type B protein (XPB), a component of super-enhancers, which are DNA regions with high levels of transcription that regulate genes responsible for cell identity and oncogenes driving tumorigenesis. Both SCCOHT-1 and BIN67 cell lines treated with triptolide displayed lower expression of the super-enhancer associated MYC oncogene compared to untreated cells, supporting the theory that triptolide could be inhibiting super-enhancers regulating oncogenes.. A western blot confirmed reduced protein levels of RNA polymerase II and bromodomain 4 (BRD4), two essential components found at high levels at super-enhancers, in BIN67 cells treated with triptolide. ChIP-sequencing of Histone H3 Lysine-27 Acetylation (H3K27ac) marks in BIN67 and SCCOHT-1 cell lines identified super-enhancers in SCCOHT using tools CREAM and ROSE, which were mapped to neighboring genes associated genes and compared with the COSMIC database to identify oncogenes, of which the top 11 were examined by qRT-PCR to ascertain whether triptolide reduces their expression. It has been found that 6 out of 11 of the oncogenes examined (SALL4, MYC, SGK1, HIST1H3B, HMGA2, and CALR) decreased in expression when treated with triptolide. Thus, there is reason to believe that triptolide’s mechanism of action is via inhibition of super-enhancers that regulate oncogene expression.

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2020-05

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Beginning to investigate Lactase Persistence in Turkana

Description

Lactase persistence is the ability of adults to digest lactose in milk (Segurel & Bon, 2017). Mammals are generally distinguished by their mammary glands which gives females the ability to produce milk and feed their newborn children. The new born

Lactase persistence is the ability of adults to digest lactose in milk (Segurel & Bon, 2017). Mammals are generally distinguished by their mammary glands which gives females the ability to produce milk and feed their newborn children. The new born therefore requires the ability to breakdown the lactose in the milk to ensure its proper digestion (Segurel & Bon, 2017). Generally, humans lose the expression of lactase after weaning, which prevents them being able to breakdown lactose from dairy (Flatz, 1987).
My research is focused on the people of Turkana, a human pastoral population inhabiting Northwest Kenya. The people of Turkana are Nilotic people that are native to the Turkana district. There are currently no conclusive studies done on evidence for genetic lactase persistence in Turkana. Therefore, my research will be on the evolution of lactase persistence in the people of Turkana. The goal of this project is to investigate the evolutionary history of two genes with known involvement in lactase persistence, LCT and MCM6, in the Turkana. Variants in these genes have previously been identified to result in the ability to digest lactose post-weaning age. Furthermore, an additional study found that a closely related population to the Turkana, the Massai, showed stronger signals of recent selection for lactase persistence than Europeans in these genes. My goal is to characterize known variants associated with lactase persistence by calculating their allele frequencies in the Turkana and conduct selection scans to determine if LCT/MCM6 show signatures of positive selection. In doing this, we conducted a pilot study consisting of 10 female Turkana individuals and 10 females from four different populations from the 1000 genomes project namely: the Yoruba in Ibadan, Nigeria (YRI); Luhya in Webuye, Kenya; Utah Residents with Northern and Western European Ancestry (CEU); and the Southern Han Chinese. The allele frequency calculation suggested that the CEU (Utah Residents with Northern and Western European Ancestry) population had a higher lactase persistence associated allele frequency than all the other populations analyzed here, including the Turkana population. Our Tajima’s D calculations and analysis suggested that both the Turkana population and the four haplotype map populations shows signatures of positive selection in the same region. The iHS selection scans we conducted to detect signatures of positive selection on all five populations showed that the Southern Han Chinese (CHS), the LWK (Luhya in Webuye, Kenya) and the YRI (Yoruba in Ibadan, Nigeria) populations had stronger signatures of positive selection than the Turkana population. The LWK (Luhya in Webuye, Kenya) and the YRI (Yoruba in Ibadan, Nigeria) populations showed the strongest signatures of positive selection in this region. This project serves as a first step in the investigation of lactase persistence in the Turkana population and its evolution over time.

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2019-05

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How the EnvZ/OmpR Two-component Regulatory System Affects fepA Gene Expression in Escherichia coli

Description

This study focused on the connection between the EnvZ/OmpR two-component regulatory system and the iron homeostasis system in Escherichia coli, specifically how a mutant form of EnvZ11/OmpR is able to reduce the expression of fepA::lacZ, a reporter gene fusion in

This study focused on the connection between the EnvZ/OmpR two-component regulatory system and the iron homeostasis system in Escherichia coli, specifically how a mutant form of EnvZ11/OmpR is able to reduce the expression of fepA::lacZ, a reporter gene fusion in E. coli. FepA is one of several outer membrane siderophore receptors that allow extracellular siderophores bound to iron to enter the cells to power various biological processes. Previous studies have shown that in E. coli cells that expressed a mutant allele of envZ, called envZ11, which led to altered expression of various iron genes including down regulation of fepA::lacZ. The wild type EnvZ/OmpR system is not considered to regulate iron genes, but because these envz11 strains had downregulated fepA::lacZ, this study was undertaken to understand the connection and mechanisms of this downregulation. A large number of Lac+ revertants were obtained from the B32-2483 strain (envz11 and fepA::lacZ) and 7 Lac+ revertants that had reversion mutations not directly correcting the envZ11 allele were further characterized. With P1 phage transduction genetic mapping that involved moving a kanamycin resistance marker linked to fepA::lacZ, two Lac+ revertants were found to have their reversion mutations in the fepA promoter region, while the other five revertants had their mutations mapping outside the fepA region. These two revertants underwent DNA sequencing and found to carry two different single base pair mutations in two different locations of the fepA promoter region. Each one is in the Fur repressor binding region, but one also may have affected the Shine-Dalgarno region involved in translation initiation. All 7 reveratants underwent beta-galactosidase assays to measure fepA::lacZ expression. The two revertants that had mutations in the fepA promoter region had significantly increased fepA activity, with the revertant with the Shine-Dalgarno mutation having the most elevated fepA expression. The other 5 revertants that did not map in the fepA region had fepA expression elevated to the same level as that found in the wild type EnvZ/OmpR background. The data suggest that the negative effect of envZ11 can be overcome by multiple mechanisms, including directly correcting the envZ11 allele or changing the fepA promoter region.

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Date Created
2016-05

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C. elegans as a Model to Study Muscle Specific Changes in Duchenne Muscle Dystrophy

Description

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is an X-linked recessive disease characterized by progressive muscle loss and weakness. This disease arises from a mutation that occurs on a gene that encodes for dystrophin, which results in observable muscle death and inflammation; however,

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is an X-linked recessive disease characterized by progressive muscle loss and weakness. This disease arises from a mutation that occurs on a gene that encodes for dystrophin, which results in observable muscle death and inflammation; however, the genetic changes that result from dystrophin's dysfunctionality remain unknown. Current DMD research uses mdx mice as a model, and while very useful, does not allow the study of cell-autonomous transcriptome changes during the progression of DMD due to the strong inflammatory response, perhaps hiding important therapeutic targets. C. elegans, which has a very weak inflammatory response compared to mdx mice and humans, has been used in the past to study DMD with some success. The worm ortholog of the dystrophin gene has been identified as dys-1 since its mutation phenocopies the progression of the disease and a portion of the human dystrophin gene alleviates symptoms. Importantly, the extracted RNA transcriptome from dys-1 worms showed significant change in gene expression, which needs to be further investigated with the development of a more robust model. Our lab previously published a method to isolate high-quality muscle-specific RNA from worms, which could be used to study such changes at higher resolution. We crossed the dys-1 worms with our muscle-specific strain and demonstrated that the chimeric strain exhibits similar behavioral symptoms as DMD patients as characterized by a shortened lifespan, difficulty in movement, and a decrease in speed. The presence of dys-1 and other members of the dystrophin complex in the body muscle were supported by the development of a resulting phenotype due to RNAi knockdown of each component in the body muscle; however, further experimentation is needed to reinforce this conclusion. Thus, the constructed chimeric C. elegans strain possesses unique characteristics that will allow the study of genetic changes, such as transcriptome rearrangements and dysregulation of miRNA, and how they affect the progression of DMD.

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Date Created
2016-05

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Stress and the Genetic Pathway of Schizophrenia: Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) analysis of the role of early growth response 3 protein (EGR3) in the regulation of the Htr2a gene using mice

Description

Schizophrenia affects 1.1% of the population worldwide. Schizophrenia is a complex, multifactorial disorder. Stress can trigger psychotic episodes and exacerbate schizophrenic symptoms. For humans, one gene implicated in stress and schizophrenia in humans is the early growth response 3 (EGR3).

Schizophrenia affects 1.1% of the population worldwide. Schizophrenia is a complex, multifactorial disorder. Stress can trigger psychotic episodes and exacerbate schizophrenic symptoms. For humans, one gene implicated in stress and schizophrenia in humans is the early growth response 3 (EGR3). Patients with genomic variations in EGR3 have reduced levels of EGR3 in the prefrontal brain region compared with healthy patients. Schizophrenic patients also have less serotonin 2A receptor (5HT2AR), which is coded by the gene Htr2a, in their prefrontal cortex. Mice that are Egr3-deficient also have decreased levels of 5HT2AR, suggesting that Egr3 may be involved in the regulation of 5HT2AR. The purpose of the experiment is to determine if EGR3 binds to the Htr2a gene promoter region by using a Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assay. We will use ECS to increase EGR3 expression. Previously we have identified two upstream sites of interest where EGR3 potentially binds to the Htr2a gene, one which is distal and one proximal to the transcription start site. After ECS, increased binding is seen in the Htr2a distal region with EGR3 via the ChIP assay. Increased binding was not observed at either of the promoter sites; however, the t-test comparing the distal site of the ECS and the No ECS groups to have a p-value of 0.056, suggesting that increasing the number of animals (n=7) could possibly give a more accurate representation to test our hypothesis. However, the experiment still suggests increased expression and that EGR3 may bind to the distal site of Htr2a. Keywords: stress, environment, genetics, schizophrenia, EGR3, chromatin immunoprecipitation

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Date Created
2015-05

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Whole Exome Sequencing: What it is and how it can help

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The Dorrance Center for Rare Childhood Disorders is a unique research division at TGen (The Translational Genomics Research Institute) that provides personalized care to children and young adults facing rare, undiagnosed diseases. TGen scientists believe that the answers to these

The Dorrance Center for Rare Childhood Disorders is a unique research division at TGen (The Translational Genomics Research Institute) that provides personalized care to children and young adults facing rare, undiagnosed diseases. TGen scientists believe that the answers to these enigmatic disorders can often be found in a person's genetic code. They aim to solve these genetic mysteries using whole exome sequencing, a method that prioritizes the protein-coding portion of the genome in the search for disease-causing variants. Unfortunately, a communication gap sometimes exists between the TGen scientists and the patients they serve. I have seen, first hand, the kind of confusion that this study elicits in the families of its participants. Therefore, for my thesis, I decided to create a booklet that is meant to provide some clarity as to what exactly The Dorrance Center for Rare Childhood Disorders does to help diagnose children with rare disorders. The purpose of the booklet is to dispel any confusion regarding the study by providing a general review of genetics and an application of these lessons to the relevant sequencing technology as well as a discussion of the causes and effects of genetic mutations that often times are linked to rare childhood disorders.

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2015-05

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The Role of Lipolysis in Regulating Plasma Glucose Concentrations in Mourning Doves

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Birds have unusually high plasma glucose concentrations compared to mammals of similar size despite their high metabolic rate. While birds use lipids as their main source of energy, it is still unclear how and why they maintain high plasma glucose

Birds have unusually high plasma glucose concentrations compared to mammals of similar size despite their high metabolic rate. While birds use lipids as their main source of energy, it is still unclear how and why they maintain high plasma glucose concentrations. To investigate a potential underlying mechanism, this study looks at the role of lipolysis in glucose homeostasis. The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of decreased glycerol availability (through inhibition of lipolysis) on plasma glucose concentrations in mourning doves. The hypothesis is that decreased availability of glycerol will result in decreased production of glucose through gluconeogenesis leading to reduced plasma glucose concentrations. In the morning of each experiment, mourning doves were collected at the Arizona State University Tempe campus, and randomized into either a control group (0.9% saline) or experimental group (acipimox, 50mg/kg BM). Blood samples were collected prior to treatment, and at 1, 2, and 3 hours post-treatment. At 3 hours, doves were euthanized, and tissue samples were collected for analysis. Acipimox treatment resulted in significant increases in blood glucose concentrations at 1 and 2 hours post- treatment as well as renal triglyceride concentrations at 3 hours post-treatment. Change in plasma free glycerol between 0h and 3h followed an increasing trend for the acipimox treated animals, and a decreasing trend in the saline treated animals. These results do not support the hypothesis that inhibition of lipolysis should decrease blood glycerol and blood glucose levels. Rather, the effects of acipimox in glucose homeostasis appear to differ significantly between birds and mammals suggesting differing mechanisms for glucose homeostasis.

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2015-05