Matching Items (9)

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Control of tissue homeostasis, regeneration, and degeneration by coupled bi-stable switches

Description

The Hippo signaling pathway is responsible for regulating organ size through cell proliferation, stemness, and apoptosis. Through targeting proteins Yes-associated kinase 1(YAP) and transcriptional co-activator with a PDZ-binding domain(TAZ), YAP/TAZ

The Hippo signaling pathway is responsible for regulating organ size through cell proliferation, stemness, and apoptosis. Through targeting proteins Yes-associated kinase 1(YAP) and transcriptional co-activator with a PDZ-binding domain(TAZ), YAP/TAZ are unable to enter the nucleus and bind with coactivators to express target genes. To understand YAP/TAZ dynamics and its role in tumorigenesis, tissue regeneration, and tissue degeneration, a regulatory network was modeled by ordinary differential equations. Using MATLAB, the deterministic behavior of the network was observed to determine YAP/TAZ activity in different states. Performing the bifurcation analysis of the system through Oscill8, three states were identified: tumorigenic/regenerative, degenerative, and homeostatic states. Further analysis through parameter modification allowed a better understanding of which proteins can be targeted for cancer and degenerative disease.

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Date Created
  • 2020-05

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Investigating Alzheimer’s Disease Risk Factors with Stem Cell-Derived Neurons

Description

Over 5.8 million people are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), with the sixth highest mortality rate in the United States. No known cure or substantially life-extending treatment exists. With

Over 5.8 million people are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), with the sixth highest mortality rate in the United States. No known cure or substantially life-extending treatment exists. With the growing aging population these numbers are only expected to increase to about 13.8 million by the year 2050. Alzheimer’s is a multifactorial disease, giving rise to two main types: familial AD (FAD) and sporadic AD (SAD). Although there are different factors associated with each type of the disease, both FAD and SAD result in neuronal and synaptic loss and remain difficult to model in-vitro and treat overall.

Current advances in cellular models of neurodegenerative diseases overcome a variety of limitations possessed in animal and post-mortem human models. Human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) provide a platform with cells that can self-renew and differentiate into mature and functional cell types. HiPSCs are at the forefront of neurodegenerative disease research because of their ability to differentiate into neural cell types. Apolipoprotein E (ApoE) is a protein encoded by the APOE gene found on chromosome 19 of the human genome. There are three common polymorphisms in the APOE gene, resulting from a single amino acid change in the protein. The presence of these polymorphisms are studied as associated risk factors of developing AD. Different combinations of these alleles closely relate to the risk a patient has in developing Alzheimer’s disease. The risk associated effects of this gene are primarily investigated, however the protective effects are not examined to the same extent.

This research aims to overcome the existing limitations in cell differentiations and improve cell population purity that limits the variables present in the culture. To do this, this study optimized a differentiation protocol by separating and purifying neuronal cell populations to study the potential protective effects associated with ApoE, a risk factor seen in SAD. This platform aims to use a purified cell population to effectively analyze cell type specific affects of the ApoE risk factor, specifically in neurons.

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Date Created
  • 2020-05

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An Investigation of the Formation, Function, and Future of Extrachromosomal Circular DNA

Description

Extrachromosomal circular DNA (eccDNA) has been identified in a broad range of eukaryotes and have been shown to carry genes and regulatory sequences. Additionally, they can amplify within a cell

Extrachromosomal circular DNA (eccDNA) has been identified in a broad range of eukaryotes and have been shown to carry genes and regulatory sequences. Additionally, they can amplify within a cell by autonomous replication or reintegration into the genome, effectively influencing copy number in cells. This has significant implications for cancer, where oncogenes are frequently amplified on eccDNA. However, little is known about the exact molecular mechanisms governing eccDNA functionality. To this end, we constructed a fluorescent reporter at an eccDNA-prone locus of the yeast genome, CUP1. It is our hope that this reporter will contribute to a better understanding of eccDNA formation and amplification within a cell.

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Date Created
  • 2021-05

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Mathematical Modeling of the YAP/TAZ Pathways

Description

YAP/TAZ is the key effector in the Hippo pathway, but it is also involved in many other regulatory pathways to control tissue and organ size. To better understand its regulation

YAP/TAZ is the key effector in the Hippo pathway, but it is also involved in many other regulatory pathways to control tissue and organ size. To better understand its regulation and effects in tumorigenesis and degeneration, a preliminary feedback network was created with the species YAP/TAZ, phosphorylated YAP/TAZ, LATS, miR-130a, VGLL4, and β-catenin. From this network a set of ordinary differential equations were written and analyzed for parameter effects. A model showing the healthy, tumorigenic, and degenerative states was created and preliminary parameter analysis identified the effects of parameter modifications on the overall levels of YAP/TAZ. Further analysis is required and connections with the underlying biology should continue to be pursued to better understand how parameter modifications could improve disease treatments.

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Date Created
  • 2019-05

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Increased Enrichment and Generation of Isogenic Lines Using a Transient Reporter for Editing Enrichment

Description

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) affects over 5 million individuals each year in the United States. Furthermore, most cases of AD are sporadic, making it extremely difficult to model and study in

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) affects over 5 million individuals each year in the United States. Furthermore, most cases of AD are sporadic, making it extremely difficult to model and study in vitro. CRISPR/Cas9 and base editing technologies have been of recent interest because of their ability to create single nucleotide edits at nearly any genomic sequence using a Cas9 protein and a guide RNA (sgRNA). Currently, there is no available phenotype to differentiate edited cells from unedited cells. Past research has employed fluorescent proteins bound to Cas9 proteins to attempt to enrich for edited cells, however, these methods are only reporters of transfection (RoT) and are no indicative of actual base-editing occurring. Thus, this study proposes a transient reporter for editing enrichment (TREE) and Cas9-mediated adenosine TREE (CasMasTREE) which use plasmids to co-transfect with CRISPR/Cas9 technologies to serve as an indicator of base-editing. Specifically, TREE features a blue fluorescent protein (BFP) mutant that, upon a C-T conversion, changes the emission spectrum to a green fluorescent protein (GFP). CasMasTREE features a mCherry and GFP protein separated by a stop codon which can be negated using an A-G conversion. By employing a sgRNA that targets one of the TREE plasmids and at least one genomic site, cells can be sorted for GFP(+) cells. Using these methods, base-edited isogenic hiPSC line generation using TREE (BIG-TREE) was created to generate isogenic hiPSC lines with AD-relevant edits. For example, BIG-TREE demonstrates the capability of converting Apolipoprotein E (APOE), a gene associated with AD-risk development, wildtype (3/3) into another isoform, APOE2/2, to create isogenic hiPSC lines. The capabilities of TREE are vast and can be applied to generate various models of diseases with specific genomic edits.

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Date Created
  • 2020

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Engineering of Synthetic DNA/RNA Modules for Manipulating Gene Expression and Circuit Dynamics

Description

Gene circuit engineering facilitates the discovery and understanding of fundamental biology and has been widely used in various biological applications. In synthetic biology, gene circuits are often constructed by two

Gene circuit engineering facilitates the discovery and understanding of fundamental biology and has been widely used in various biological applications. In synthetic biology, gene circuits are often constructed by two main strategies: either monocistronic or polycistronic constructions. The Latter architecture can be commonly found in prokaryotes, eukaryotes, and viruses and has been largely applied in gene circuit engineering. In this work, the effect of adjacent genes and noncoding regions are systematically investigated through the construction of batteries of gene circuits in diverse scenarios. Data-driven analysis yields a protein expression metric that strongly correlates with the features of adjacent transcriptional regions (ATRs). This novel mathematical tool helps the guide for circuit construction and has the implication for the design of synthetic ATRs to tune gene expression, illustrating its potential to facilitate engineering complex gene networks. The ability to tune RNA dynamics is greatly needed for biotech applications, including therapeutics and diagnostics. Diverse methods have been developed to tune gene expression through transcriptional or translational manipulation. Control of RNA stability/degradation is often overlooked and can be the lightweight alternative to regulate protein yields. To further extend the utility of engineered ATRs to regulate gene expression, a library of RNA modules named degradation-tuning RNAs (dtRNAs) are designed with the ability to form specific 5’ secondary structures prior to RBS. These modules can modulate transcript stability while having a minimal interference on translation initiation. Optimization of their functional structural features enables gene expression level to be tuned over a wide dynamic range. These engineered dtRNAs are capable of regulating gene circuit dynamics as well as noncoding RNA levels and can be further expanded into cell-free system for gene expression control in vitro. Finally, integrating dtRNA with synthetic toehold sensor enables improved paper-based viral diagnostics, illustrating the potential of using synthetic dtRNAs for biomedical applications.

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Date Created
  • 2020

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Opening Chromatin and Improving CRISPR / Cas9 Editing /: How is CRISPR Mediated Editing Influenced by Artificially-Opened Chromatin in Human?

Description

The research question explored in this thesis is how CRISPR mediated editing is influenced by artificially opened chromatin in cells. Closed chromatin poses a barrier to Cas9 binding and editing

The research question explored in this thesis is how CRISPR mediated editing is influenced by artificially opened chromatin in cells. Closed chromatin poses a barrier to Cas9 binding and editing at target genes. Synthetic pioneer factors (PFs) are a promising new approach to artificially open condensed heterochromatin allowing greater access of target DNA to Cas9. The Haynes lab has constructed fusions of enzymatic chromatin-modifying domains designed to remodel chromatin and increase Cas9 editing efficiency. With a library of PFs available, this research focuses on analyzing the behavior of Cas9 in chromatin that has been artificially opened by PFs. The types and frequency of INDELs (insertions & deletions) were determined after non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) in PF and Cas9-treated cells using quantitative Sanger sequencing and Synthego’s ICE software. Furthermore, NOME-seq analysis was carried out to map nucleosome position in PF and Cas9 treated cells. Although this experiment was unsuccessful, the heat map generated with data obtained from Synthego ICE predicts a possible presence of nucleosome in the vicinity suggesting that perhaps a fully open chromatin state was not achieved. Linear Regression analysis with certain assumptions confirms that with the increase in distance downstream of cut-site, the editing frequency decreases exponentially. Nevertheless, further experimental work should be carried out to investigate this hypothesis.

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Date Created
  • 2019

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Semi-automated calcium imaging analysis: for in-vitro applications

Description

Calcium imaging is a well-established, non-invasive or minimally technique designed to study the electrical signaling neurons. Calcium regulates the release of gliotransmitters in astrocytes. Analyzing astrocytic calcium transients can provide

Calcium imaging is a well-established, non-invasive or minimally technique designed to study the electrical signaling neurons. Calcium regulates the release of gliotransmitters in astrocytes. Analyzing astrocytic calcium transients can provide significant insights into mechanisms such as neuroplasticity and neural signal modulation.

In the past decade, numerous methods have been developed to analyze in-vivo calcium imaging data that involves complex techniques such as overlapping signals segregation and motion artifact correction. The hypothesis used to detect calcium signal is the spatiotemporal sparsity of calcium signal, and these methods are unable to identify the passive cells that are not actively firing during the time frame in the video. Statistics regarding the percentage of cells in each frame of view can be critical for the analysis of calcium imaging data for human induced pluripotent stem cells derived neurons and astrocytes.

The objective of this research is to develop a simple and efficient semi-automated pipeline for analysis of in-vitro calcium imaging data. The region of interest (ROI) based image segmentation is used to extract the data regarding intensity fluctuation caused by calcium concentration changes in each cell. It is achieved by using two approaches: basic image segmentation approach and a machine learning approach. The intensity data is evaluated using a custom-made MATLAB that generates statistical information and graphical representation of the number of spiking cells in each field of view, the number of spikes per cell and spike height.

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Date Created
  • 2019

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Engineering mutation-tolerant genes

Description

Ideas from coding theory are employed to theoretically demonstrate the engineering of mutation-tolerant genes, genes that can sustain up to some arbitrarily chosen number of mutations and still express the

Ideas from coding theory are employed to theoretically demonstrate the engineering of mutation-tolerant genes, genes that can sustain up to some arbitrarily chosen number of mutations and still express the originally intended protein. Attention is restricted to tolerating substitution mutations. Future advances in genomic engineering will make possible the ability to synthesize entire genomes from scratch. This presents an opportunity to embed desirable capabilities like mutation-tolerance, which will be useful in preventing cell deaths in organisms intended for research or industrial applications in highly mutagenic environments. In the extreme case, mutation-tolerant genes (mutols) can make organisms resistant to retroviral infections.

An algebraic representation of the nucleotide bases is developed. This algebraic representation makes it possible to convert nucleotide sequences into algebraic sequences, apply mathematical ideas and convert results back into nucleotide terms. Using the algebra developed, a mapping is found from the naturally-occurring codons to an alternative set of codons which makes genes constructed from them mutation-tolerant, provided no more than one substitution mutation occurs per codon. The ideas discussed naturally extend to finding codons that can tolerate t arbitrarily chosen number of mutations per codon. Finally, random substitution events are simulated in both a wild-type green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene and its mutol variant and the amino acid sequence expressed from each post-mutation is compared with the amino acid sequence pre-mutation.

This work assumes the existence of synthetic protein-assembling entities that function like tRNAs but can read k nucleotides at a time, with k greater than or equal to 5. The realization of this assumption is presented as a challenge to the research community.

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Date Created
  • 2019