My Journey in Biomedical Research - Part 4

in StemSocial5 months ago (edited)

Skyline of Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina

pexels-joe-caltiere-10914326.jpg Pexels (source)

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

I began working in the Department of Biology at UNCC in August of 2004. I was hired to investigate the effects of 3,4-Methylenedioxy​methamphetamine (MDMA) on the immune system. Better known as ecstasy or molly, MDMA is a psychoactive drug primarily used for recreational purposes.

We studied the immune response to gammaherpesvirus, the mouse model for Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), which causes mononucleosis. EBV, also known as the "kissing disease", may cause symptoms in teenagers and young adults. The virus goes latent, or dormant, in memory B cells and epithelial cells. It is estimated that more than 90% of the US population is harboring this virus. We wanted to better understand how this virus could be reactivated by recreational use of MDMA.

Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) spreads most commonly through bodily fluids, especially saliva. However, EBV can also spread through blood and semen during sexual contact, blood transfusions, and organ transplantations. - Epstein-Barr Virus and Infectious Mononucleosis

We published 6 papers during my time at UNCC on this particular project. We shifted our interest to viral induced cancer metastasis during my last year, before the grant funding my position ended.

  1. Expression of Neuronal Trace Amine-associated Receptor (Taar) mRNAs in Leukocytes - Journal of Neuroimmunology. 2007 Dec; 192(1-2): 21–30.

  2. Ecstasy (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) limits murine gammaherpesvirus-68 induced monokine expression - Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. 2008 Aug; 22(6): 912–922.

  3. Interleukin-27 expression following infection with the murine gammaherpesvirus 68 - Cytokine. 2010 Aug;51(2):184-94.

  4. 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) alters acute gammaherpesvirus burden and limits interleukin 27 responses in a mouse model of viral infection - Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2011 Jul 1; 116(1-3): 211–221.

  5. Murine gammaherpesvirus-68 expands, but does not activate, CD11b+ gr-1+ splenocytes in vivo - Journal of Inflammation. 2012 Apr 16; 9:14

  6. An expanded myeloid derived suppressor cell population does not play a role in gammaherpesvirus-exacerbated breast cancer metastases - Infectious Agents and Cancer . 2012 Sep 4; 7(1):22

What does all this mean? Certain chemicals or drugs, including MDMA, may cause a latent virus to be reactivated, especially if an individual is immunocompromised or unhealthy.

SoyMeds, Inc.

While working in the lab at UNC Charlotte, I also helped with the preliminary results for SoyMeds, Inc. There was an annual conference called Five Ventures that is hosted by the Office of Technology Transfer at UNCC. Each year a grand prize of $5000 is awarded to researchers based on business viability, knowledge of their industry, communication skills and quality of the management team. SoyMeds won the award at the April 2006 conference. My former boss at UNCC is Chief Scientific Officer of SoyMeds, Inc.

The idea for SoyMeds Inc. sprouted when a plant biologist and an immunology specialist, both Ph.D.s working on research at UNC Charlotte, wondered what would happen if they combined their disciplines. - Giving vaccines a shot in the arm - UNCC researchers develop method to produce oral vaccines that could sharply cut costs

For proof of concept, we targeted the antigenic subunit of E. coli to the chloroplasts of transgenic soybean. I ran all the Western blot analysis and PCR for this project as well as gavaged all the mice for this and subsequent studies. I also took care of all the transgenic soybeans in our grow rooms. Making sure the plants were cared for properly was the highlight of my day!

We eventually moved on to targeting antigens to the soybean seed. I gavaged mice with a soybean seed based vaccine against Staphylococcal Enterotoxin B. The team moved on to piglets later on after I left the lab at UNCC. I was only included on one paper published for this project.

Chloroplast targeting of FanC, the major antigenic subunit of Escherichia coli K99 fimbriae, in transgenic soybean - Plant Cell Reports volume 26, pages 1011–1023 (2007).

It turned out there was a conflict of interest since I was hired to work on the MDMA grant. I never received any compensation for my contributions to SoyMeds, Inc. However, I enjoyed every minute of my participation in this lab at UNC Charlotte! My favorite part was helping teach students in the lab and growing transgenic soybean.

I became pregnant with my third child my last year at UNCC. The grant funding my project ended in 2011 and I decided to take time off from my career and take care of my family. I would return to biomedical research at Davidson College in the Department of Biology. During my break from research, I worked part-time as a Biology lab instructor at Pfieffer University in Misenheimer, NC. I really liked teaching too!

More next time when I share my research at Davidson College where I worked on a project to fluorescently label T-cells with Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP). Eureka!!

Sources:

  1. What is MDMA?

  2. Epstein-Barr Virus and Infectious Mononucleosis

  3. Expression of Neuronal Trace Amine-associated Receptor (Taar) mRNAs in Leukocytes

  4. Ecstasy (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) limits murine gammaherpesvirus-68 induced monokine expression

  5. Interleukin-27 expression following infection with the murine gammaherpesvirus 68

  6. 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) alters acute gammaherpesvirus burden and limits interleukin 27 responses in a mouse model of viral infection

  7. Murine gammaherpesvirus-68 expands, but does not activate, CD11b+ gr-1+ splenocytes in vivo

  8. An expanded myeloid derived suppressor cell population does not play a role in gammaherpesvirus-exacerbated breast cancer metastases

  9. SoyMeds Biotech Research

  10. Giving vaccines a shot in the arm

  11. Chloroplast targeting of FanC, the major antigenic subunit of Escherichia coli K99 fimbriae, in transgenic soybean

Sort:  

From the description of this part of your life it seems that you got in love with teaching too. I hope you managed to continue being involved in education and teaching. I guess that I will have to be patient and wait for the next episodes to know more... ;)

Pfeiffer University was the only place I formerly taught students. In my current position, I teach medical students as part of a summer research program. I absolutely love interacting with the medical students. They follow me around for 6-8 weeks and learn everything we do in the lab.

Seems like you lived a fulfilling 7 years of your life in that laboratory.

!1UP

Congratulations @melyxaluna! You have completed the following achievement on the Hive blockchain and have been rewarded with new badge(s):

You published more than 20 posts.
Your next target is to reach 30 posts.

You can view your badges on your board and compare yourself to others in the Ranking
If you no longer want to receive notifications, reply to this comment with the word STOP

To support your work, I also upvoted your post!

Check out the last post from @hivebuzz:

Hive Power Up Day - March 1st 2022
Hive Power Up Month - Feedback from February day 28
Support the HiveBuzz project. Vote for our proposal!
Don-1UP-Cheers-Cartel-250px.png

You have received a 1UP from @ivarbjorn!

The following @oneup-cartel family members will soon upvote your post:
@stem-curator
And they will bring !PIZZA 🍕

Learn more about our delegation service to earn daily rewards. Join the family on Discord.

Thanks for your contribution to the STEMsocial community. Feel free to join us on discord to get to know the rest of us!

Please consider delegating to the @stemsocial account (85% of the curation rewards are returned).

You may also include @stemsocial as a beneficiary of the rewards of this post to get a stronger support.