Diabetes mellitus is an increasing epidemic that is due to an inability of the production and/or use of insulin, which results in high blood glucose. Diabetes can lead to many detrimental complications, such as cardiovascular disease, and requires careful monitoring. Although there is current treatment to assist in the control of diabetes, new natural remedies have become of increased interest. One of these remedies is epicatechin, which is found in cacao beans, commonly used to make chocolate. My research focuses on the effects of epicatechin in pathways involved in glucose uptake into the cells and mitochondrial function. Specifically, many cells utilize glucose transporters, GLUT 4, for the uptake of glucose and studies have show that epicatechin may play a role in glucose utilization. I am also interest in investigating the effects of epicatechin on the proteins AMPK and PGC-1alpha, which have been shown to activate GLUT 4 and improve mitochondrial function. By understanding how epicatechin affects the proteins in this pathway it can potentially lead to new targets in the development of new treatment for the control of diabetes.
There are numerous craniofacial deformities that are fairly present throughout populations such as Cleft-palate and Treacher-Collins syndrome. The causes of these disorders are not fully understood, but are speculated to have to do with regulatory elements of the craniofacial development pathways. In order to fully understand this system, and how certain mutations and environmental elements might affect the pathways, it is important to have a full and comprehensive understanding of the various proteins, and molecular mechanisms inherent to this system. My research focuses on studying how Wdr68 functions as an essential piece of the regulatory pathway. The animal we study this pathway in is the zebrafish. This is because the regulatory mechanisms of craniofacial development in embryogenesis for zebrafish are very similar to those of human development. Wdr68 is an essential protein for craniofacial across many vertebrates. A viral insertion in the coding sequence of Wdr68 resulted in a mutant phenotype that behaved in a recessive null mutation manner. This mutation results in offspring zebrafish developing with no upper or lower jaw. Recently, my experiments have shown that this mutation actually behaves in a temperature dependent manner; with higher temperatures resulting in offspring with the most severe of phenotypes. My current focus is on studying the contribution of particular coding sequence on the gene to the function of the protein. I constructed deletion fragments of the Wdr68 protein in an attempt to see if these deletions could still function in the craniofacial pathway. Additionally, I am looking at expression patterns of other regulatory factors in the craniofacial pathway. By comparing and contrasting expression patterns in normal and mutant animals, we can gain insight into what factor are directly related to Wdr68 regulation. Finding further downstream targets will give us greater insight into how Wdr68 functions in this pathway. In conjunction with research on other regulatory factors of the craniofacial development pathways, we hope to gain a full understanding of what can go wrong, and how we might be able to prevent, or offset further deformities.
In engineering world composite materials have their unique place. As technology evolves so does the materials that are being used in current technology. Main objective of this research project is to create such composite material with carbon nanotube matrix that will replace more conventional metal alloys. Carbon nanotubes are known for their great structural properties and preliminary research shows that they can increase the strength of any given composite material more than 30%. Overall structure of composite material will have top and bottom layers with honeycomb mesh in-between where carbon nanotube matrix hardener will cover. If carbon nanotube composite materials can replace current metal alloy chassis used in cars these days that would reduce the weight of the car which in turn will reduce the gas consumption by the engine. The research will benefit both the scientific world as well as our environment directly or indirectly.
Spinal cord injuries can have a devastating impact on mobility. The purpose of our research is to enhance physical therapy for patients with spinal cord injury that have lost mobility in their lower extremities. We plan to do this by developing and incorporating Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) protocols. NMES is an appropriately timed electrical impulse designed to stimulate either nerves or muscles that lead to contraction. In our research we are stimulating the nerve to the Tibialis Anterior (ankle), by using implanted electrodes, and timing the impulse to rehabilitative walking therapy, also known as Robotic Treadmill Training (RTT). We will examine the effects of combined NMES and RTT on spinal cord injured rats, and how these effects correlate with mobility. These analyses will enable further system development to determine a stimulation protocol optimized to encourage spinal reflexes. Spinal reflexes have been found to directly correlate with walking ability, the earlier and more pronounced the spinal reflex appears after a stimulus, the more mobility and faster gait speed a spinal cord injury patient will exhibit. Ultimately, our objective is to help develop a NMES+RTT therapy to essentially retrain synapses on when to generate their own spinal reflex. If we are successful, the ratsÃ?Â¢?? synapses will generate their own spinal reflex earlier in the gait cycle, leading to improved mobility.
The Western Gray squirrel is a native tree squirrel of California that has been displaced further east due to the introduction of Eastern Fox squirrels and urbanization. In an area like Los Angeles, many natural areas have been removed to make room for LA's growing population. With this decrease in appropriate habitat for the Gray squirrel and the introduced Fox squirrel population continuously increasing, the Gray squirrel population is at risk. Gray squirrels, being more specialized feeders of natural foods such as nuts, are primary seed dispersers of acorn trees and thus important for the balance of the ecosystem. By hiding acorns in the ground during winter when food is limited, the acorns may develop into oak trees that can provide the Gray squirrels with more nesting space and food and as a result, oxygen for us. Because of their limited food choice, it is difficult for Gray squirrels to adapt to just any environment. This leads to the increased competition between the Gray and Fox squirrels for common food sources and habitats. The Fox squirrels on the other hand, are generalist feeders and can adapt to many habitats, which has allowed them to become dominant in Los Angeles. The objective of my research is to analyze the impact of the introduced Fox squirrel on the native Western Gray squirrel's behavior and reproduction. I will complete behavioral observations and squirrel pup counts at three types of study sites: Gray squirrel only, Fox squirrel only, and co-existence. At these sites, I will be observing for behaviors related to food, self maintenance, and communication. In addition, during the breeding season I will perform pup counts by counting the number pups in nests of both species to determine which species is more reproductively successful. This study will allow us to see how the Fox squirrel is impacting the Gray squirrel in Los Angeles County and surrounding counties in their behavior and population numbers. It will also assist us in developing management plans and finding habitats suitable for Gray squirrel population growth.