Three doctoral students from the UCF College of Medicine’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences recently won awards based on their research, which includes possible treatments for heart disease, Huntington’s Disease and AIDS.

Seventeen Burnett school students presented their research during the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Student 5th Annual Symposium on May 6.

Dr. Sic Chan, chair of the Graduate Student Symposium Committee, said the event helps graduate students learn the skills necessary to make presentations at national and international research conferences. “The quality of the students’ research, the data that they have produced and the significance of their work in terms of future treatments for disease were very impressive,” he said.

Other Symposium Committee members were Drs. Dinender Singla, Mollie Jewett, Shadab Siddiqui, Xiaoman Li and Sean Moore and graduate student Janet Dowding.

The First Place Award went to Colleen Eade for her study, “Bacterial vaginosis induces an immune response in female reproductive tract epithelia that enhances HIV-1 infection.” Colleen is looking at a common infection that forms in the reproductive system of 50 percent of all women and why this bacterium increases a woman’s chances of contracting the HIV virus by 60 percent. Colleen, who said she was “delighted” to be honored with First Place, hopes to do infectious disease research overseas after she earns her doctorate degree. Colleen works in the laboratory of Dr. Alexander Cole.

Second Place went to Carley Glass for “Embryonic stem cells overexpressing TIMP-1 and miR-1 enhance cardiac repair and regeneration in the infarcted myocardium.” Carley said she is working to develop the “Lamborghini” of stem cells to not only help a diseased heart repair itself but also to keep it from developing fibrosis and overall cardiac dysfunction after a heart attack. Carley has a personal reason for her research. As an insulin-dependent diabetic for 22 years, she knows that cardiovascular disease is a likely – and potentially fatal – complication of her disease. “I’d rather be part of the solution than to sit back and accept cardiovascular disease,” she said. Carley works in the laboratory of Dr. Singla.

Third Place went to Alejandra Petrilli Guinart for “Mutant Huntington interacts with DRP1 and mediates neuronal injury in Huntington’s Disease.” Alejandra is researching how neurons in the brain die as a result of Huntington’s Disease, a progressive, inherited neurodegenerative disease that causes uncontrolled movements, dementia and emotional disturbances in its victims. Alejandra is looking at the deleterious effect the mutated Huntington protein has on mitochondria, the organelle that supplies energy to the cells, in search of pharmaceutical targets to combat neurodegeneration . “There is currently no cure for Huntington’s,” she said, “and no effective treatment to stop or delay the death of neurons.” Alejandra works in the laboratory of Dr. Ella Bossy-Wetzel.

Source: Wendy Spirduso Sarubbi, UCF College of Medicine Information/Publication Services, 407-823-0233 or [email protected]