Pitt Bio Blog
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
Biological Sciences Senior and pre-PA
Speaking from experience, I know it can be a bit daunting deciding on the best Bio 2 (BIOSC 006X) lab for you. Because of this, I just wanted to give a basic overview of the Neural Defects lab and why I ended up enjoying it so much!
In the Neural Defects lab, we focused on the neural tube and proteins that assist in its formation.
So what is a neural tube and why is it so important?
The neural tube begins as a very small ribbon which then develops into the brain or the spinal cord during fetal development. Improper development or closure of this tube can lead to birth defects like spina bifida, which cause a protrusion of the spinal cord through the spine. Symptoms of spina bifida can range from mild to severe and affect 1,500 babies in the United States per year.
Because neural tube formation is crucial to proper development, the initial stages of our lab class were dedicated to understanding how neural plate cells form a neural tube. From there, we were able to examine what mutations resulted in neural tube changes and what effect these genetic alterations had on the phenotypes of our model organisms—flies.
Shroom, for example, is a protein that has been found to be very important in the bending of neural cells to get proper closure of the spine. Because of this, most of our research in Neural Defects involved mutating Shroom protein to figure out how Shroom and other proteins interact to control shape changes in cells. While flies do not have neural tubes, they express Shroom proteins in other epithelial cells such as their eyes and wings, where these shape changes can be easily observed. Our research on Shroom and other proteins in flies can inform us of protein interactions that may be involved during human neural tube formation. Understanding and being able to manipulate these protein interactions could bring us one step closer to limiting the cases of neural tube defects seen in thousands of newborns each year.
Reasons why I found this lab was a match for me:
Get more info about different Intro BIOSC lab choices here: https://www.biology.pitt.edu/undergraduate/intro-research-courses
Biological Sciences Senior and Pre-Dent
I am enrolled in Communicating in the Biological Sciences (BIOSC 1010) which is a mandatory writing requirement course in the biology department. The theme for our course this semester is “drug discovery”. We are tasked with choosing a disease/condition of our interest and researching a novel therapy. We then have to craft a literature review from our findings. I decided to research Crohn’s Disease (CD), since one of my very good friends suffers from this chronic condition. I wanted to obtain more knowledge about the disease so that I can understand what exactly she goes through every day. Crohn’s Disease is a subtype of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and is caused by both hereditary and environmental factors. The hallmark symptom of CD is inflammation of the small intestine. Other symptoms include abdominal pain and diarrhea. In more severe cases, fistulas and rectal bleeding may occur.
There is no cure for Crohn’s Disease. Current treatments can only alleviate the manifestations of the disease, such as controlling inflammation flareups and decreasing the intensity of abdominal pain. All of these current treatments have different effects on the immune system, some are short term and others are long term. Biological therapies, such as tumor necrosis factor inhibitors (anti-TNF agents) are antibodies that inhibit tumor necrosis factor, a component of the inflammatory response. However, after various clinical trials, anti-TNF agents were shown to cause adverse side effects and display a decrease in responsiveness over time.
Figure 1. Schematic representation of the interaction between α4β7 integrin and MAdCAM-1. The α4β7 integrin is expressed on the surface of a discrete subset of memory T lymphocytes that preferentially migrate into the gastrointestinal tract. The α4β7 integrin binds to MAdCAM-1 on the surface of endothelial cells to initiate extravasation into gastrointestinal submucosa. Interaction of α4β7 integrin with MAdCAM-1 has been implicated as an important contributor to the chronic inflammation that is a hallmark of UC and CD. CD, Crohn’s disease; MAdCAM-1, mucosal addressin cell adhesion molecule-1; UC, ulcerative colitis. Wyant, et al.
I am researching a novel biologic therapy, Vedolizumab (VDZ), which goes by the brand name Entyvio. VDZ is an antibody that targets memory T lymphocyte migration to the gut epithelial lining (Figure 1). VDZ targets the 47 integrin attached to the surface of memory T lymphocytes and disrupts the binding of MAdCAM-1. The 47 integrin is responsible for trafficking leukocytes to the gut-associated lymph tissues. MAdCAM-1 is a mucosal adressin Cell Adhesion Molecule present on the endothelial cells that is responsible for binding leukocytes to gut-associated lymph tissues. By disrupting binding of the 47 integrin and MAdCAM-1, VDZ has the potential to mitigate inflammation, the primary symptom of CD. After routine treatment, VDZ may induce mucosal healing in patients with CD, reversing the aftermath of chronic inflammation. However, extensive research and longitudinal studies must continually be conducted to understand the true long-term efficacy of VDZ as a biologic and its potential to induce mucosal healing.
I am excited to finish crafting my literature review. When it is your turn to take BIOSC 1010, I would suggest putting a ton of thought into your topic before you start writing. It will make the research process easier (and fun!) if you pick a topic that is genuinely interesting and more personal to you. I am so glad that I decided to research Crohn’s Disease.
Biological Sciences Senior (not suffering from senioritis) and soon-to-be medical student :)
You did it! You made it to your final semester here at Pitt, and you can already see yourself walking across that stage and starting the next chapter in your life.
There is just one problem—we still have a few weeks of class left! If you feel your motivation slipping away more and more each day, you’re not alone, but here are some tips to help you keep senioritis at bay and make the most of your last few weeks of undergrad!
One great way to stay motivated is by staying organized! Making a schedule of your remaining assignments and exams is a great way to make sure nothing slips through the cracks in these last few weeks. Once you have all of the important things written down, you can start coming up with your plan for how you will tackle them. I find calendars and To-Do-Lists are good ways for me to stay on track, but everyone is different. It’s important to figure out what works best for you! I also find it helpful to budget my time. Try making a schedule that includes both your academics and other things that you want to do (such as spending time with friends, hitting the gym, or watching an episode of your favorite TV show). This can help you see where you are spending your time and how you can switch things up to make sure you are staying on track while also taking time for yourself.
When you find yourself counting the days until graduation, try to take some time to focus on the present. Don’t let your thoughts of the future keep you from experiencing all that you have now—your last few weeks of undergrad! Whether you already have a job lined up, have been accepted to graduate school, or are still trying to figure out your plans for after graduation, it’s important to stay focused on now! Remember that it was the hard work you put in up to this point that got you to where you are. Keep holding yourself to the same standard that you know you can achieve! Staying focused and continuing to work hard will allow you to transition smoothly into your next step! If you’re not sure what your plans are yet, try talking to an advisor or a consultant from the Career Center. They can help you figure out which steps to take to help you get where you want to go.
Most importantly, know that you’ve worked incredibly hard during your time at Pitt to get to where you are right now, and that is something to be proud of! Don’t let senioritis keep you from rounding out your college career the way you hoped you would when you were just starting out!
If you or a loved one is suffering from senioritis, a Peer Advisor may be able to help! Come visit us at our office hours!
Pop-up advising hours at Cup & Chaucer:
Tuesdays 5:30-6:30 with Colton (BIOSC, pre-dent) & Yogi (BINF, pre-PhD)
Tuesdays 7-8 with Isabella (BIOSC, pre-dent) & Owen (BIOSC, pre-dent)
Wednesdays 7-8 with Lisa (MICRO, pre-PhD) & Kristen (BIOSC, pre-med)
Thursdays 5-6 with Julia (BIOSC, pre-med) & Sofie (BIOSC, pre-PA)
Thursdays 7-8 with Nora (MOLBIO, pre-PhD) & Parker (MICRO, pre-PhD)
Pitt Bio Blog
The Pitt Bio Blog is maintained by the Department of Biological Sciences Advising Office. Posts are authored by our students