Looking Beyond the Wall: A Philosophical Look at Themes of Madness, Chaos, Loneliness, and Suicide in Fin-de-Siecle German Women’s Literature
Matthew A. Kearney, Brigham Young University Germanic and Slavic Amid the chaos and anticipative excitement of fin-de-siecle Europe, German society quickly became a historical hotspot of unique political and social transformations. It was felt to be a period of degeneration, but at the same time a period of hope for a new beginning. In the midst of a culture that was still perpetuating lively, discriminating social appetites, it is intriguing to note that a broad examination of texts written by German women at this time, which experiment with the very question of social walls and new decisions, shows that these women most often employed conclusions laden with themes of madness, chaos, loneliness and suicide. For this research I have chosen three significant texts which can be viewed from historical and anthropological standpoints on the subject of traditional walls and choices. These are Jenseits der Mauer by Elisabeth Heinroth, Meine Freundin by Hermione von Preuschen-Telmann, and Helene Monbart-Kessler’s Kameraden. The approach to these works, and for the purpose of my research, evaluates the female literary characters in these texts in light of Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical view on the fragile balance between the Apollonian and Dionysian drives inherent in art and in life itself. Nietzsche asserted that in life there rages a constant battle between these two major forces, each striving to control the existence of men and women alike. Against the background of this aesthetic discourse, the three texts I have chosen acquire a new dimension: they become an avenue for examining the causes of balance, or lack thereof, in the lives of these female characters. I believe this evaluation is significant because it foregrounds some of the choices and limitations which many women faced as traditional society was changing its attitudes towards them during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Belinda Ramirez, Brigham Young University Anthropology The Hmong are a stateless hill tribe ethnic group originating in southern China. Due to persecution and discrimination from the Chinese, many Hmong migrated to the surrounding regions of the Southeast Asian massif in the eighteenth century. The mountainous homes of the Hmong now lay within the borders of countries such as Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. Religiously, Hmong are traditionally a shamanistic people, believing in spirits and worshipping their ancestors through diverse practices, such as animal sacrifice and spirit calling. In addition to traditional Hmong belief (dab qhuas), many messianic religious groups have recently surfaced within the Hmong diaspora, often accompanied by a prophetic leader, criticisms of traditional Hmong practices, and a hopeful vision of the future in which there exists a Hmong country. My research on this subject is based on an ethnographic field study in Nan Province, Thailand among the Is Npis Mis Nus, a Hmong messianic religious group. Using traditional anthropological field methods, I acquired data on the practices and beliefs of the Is Npis Mis Nus, as well as investigated their conceptions of nationalism, ethnicity, and identity. In this paper, I posit that the rituals and beliefs of the Is Npis Mis Nus reveal the group’s desire for Hmong political, cultural, and economic legitimacy and national sovereignty. These beliefs and rituals also serve as boundaries that provide a clear distinction between messianic and non-messianic Hmong. Additionally, I explain how the characteristics of the Is Npis Mis Nus religion help the Hmong deal with the social and ethnic disruptions that globalization has presented.
Garrett Faylor, Dixie State University English Bob Dylan has been called just about every name in the book: voice of a generation, beatnik, icon, songwriter, protest singer, legend, even Judas. But there is one name that people cannot seem to agree upon-poet. In “I Shall Be Free No. 10,” Dylan jokingly says, I’m a poet, and I know it / Hope I don’t blow it.” Rather than take his word for it, one might suggest looking backward to discern the verity of Dylan’s claim. Wordsworth, Shelley, and T.S. Eliot all contributed greatly to the art and our understanding of poetry. Each supplied definitions for what constitutes poetry and better yet, what exactly a poet should be and do. In his Preface to Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth explains that “[the poet] is a man speaking to men.” This, and other definitions given by some of poetry’s most notorious innovators, decisively vindicates the claims of Dylan as poet. In this paper, I will argue that not only does Bob Dylan fit into almost all literary definitions of “poet,” he is the quintessential American poet: a transcendent, folk-rooted traverser and mouthpiece “for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail.”
Summer Mosgofian-Barry, Dixie State University English-Secondary Education Even avid readers of J. R. R. Tolkien’s work may not recognize how extensively his scholarly pursuits and deep knowledge of ancient languages and legends inform his fantasy writing. As a scholar who not only gave new insight into the art of Beowulf, but also as one who proved the existence of a remnant of Old and Middle English untouched by the Norman conquest, he used his mastery of Germanic languages “Old and Middle English, Old Norse, Old Finnish, Welsh” and even his familiarity of Proto-Indo-European vocabulary, to create linguistic and narrative elements in fictional works like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The connections between his scholarly pursuits and the characters and languages he invented, such as those between Anglo-Saxon syntax and mythology and Tolkien’s idealized Anglo-Saxons, the Rohirrim, as well as those connections between Snorri’s Edda and the Elvish language Quenya, clearly demonstrate his acumen as a philologist. In fact, some of Tolkien’s Middle Earth legends were clearly inspired by his extensive knowledge of, and are even modeled after, ancient writings and legends, including Beowulf, The Wanderer, “The Maid of the Moor” and Grendel, while he also utilized kennings like those seen in, again, Beowulf, “Caedmon’s Hymn”, and Snorri’s Edda. This paper looks at multiple, though certainly not all, of Tolkien’s use of early language forms and legends and in doing so, delivers the following conclusion: Tolkien’s extensive scholarly work and love of many languages, as well as his passion for the mythology of those languages, clearly plays an integral part in his fiction.
James Gardner, Utah State University Anthropology Distinct perceptions on healthcare reform exist in every part of a society. This paper examines the volatile healthcare system of Nicaragua and the perceptions of healthcare reform among Nicaraguan medical professionals. Data were gathered through ethnographic field methods including participant observation, informal interviewing, and open-ended questions. The informants were selected from the medical personnel of the E.R. in the Hospital Amistad Japón-Nicaragua in Granada, Nicaragua. First, a framework of the history of Nicaraguan healthcare is discussed. This history is presented as a reflection of the sporadic nature of the Nicaraguan political environment over the last 30 years. The changes in healthcare policy over this time period are then examined through the lens of the hospital’s healthcare providers. Perspectives on public vs. private systems, the limited ability to affect reform, and motivations behind entering the medical profession are analyzed as they pertain to job satisfaction of healthcare workers.
Carlos Junior Guadarrama, Utah State University English My poster explores the history of the Migrant Head Start program at the former Indian Intermountain School location in Brigham City, Utah. No one to my knowledge has gathered a history of this program, which operated from the mid-1980s until the early 2000s. I intend to explore this Migrant Head Start’s foundations as an informal school for the children of Latino migrants, as well as how it grew and developed over the almost two decades that it existed, before it became the Centro de la Familia de Utah. I plan to interview a former principal, several teachers, as well as former students. I argue that this Head Start played an extremely important educational and social role in the lives of many inhabitants of Brigham City.
Kimberly Williamson, Utah Valley University History “There is nothing particularly interesting about one’s life story,” Eleanor Roosevelt wrote, “unless people can say as they read it, Why, this is like what I have been through. Perhaps, after all, there is a way to work it out.” Humans throughout time have recognized the need for storytelling and have been preserving oral histories. Narratives supplement our historical memory and offer an in-depth account of personal experience and reflections, which allows another to feel a commonality that often dissolves the barriers of race, class, gender, and even time. During the 19th century, the fight for enfranchisement united Utah’s early settlers with national suffragists. Feminists such as newspaper editor, Emmiline B. Wells and “presidentes” of the women’s organization within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), Eliza R. Snow, were in the forefront of this movement. Wells, Snow, along with other women were actively involved in their family responsibilities. However, they also held public and political positions within their communities that were not typical for women of that period. The women’s movement of the seventies recognized that literature wasn’t acknowledging women’s prominent role in society. Not only was there a lack of sources by and about women, but the historiography in general was male dominated. Hence, the LDS church initiated a crusade to collect women’s journals, letters, and other writings of Utah’s pioneers. These sources increased scholarship of Utah’s suffragists, which caused national recognition of the role they played during First Wave Feminism. Nevertheless, there is a trivial amount written about the women in Utah during Second Wave Feminism from the 1970’s to late 1980’s. My research focuses on stories of women in Utah during Second Wave Feminism. I interviewed four women within higher education where they expressed personal experiences that are similar in spirit to Utah’s early settlers. Inadvertently each woman had some connection with the LDS church. My thesis will argue that by extrapolation there were many women, particularly at Utah Valley University who transcended patriarchy to achieve positions of leadership and notoriety. Their personal narratives challenge the feminist theory of patriarchal suppression, which seems paradoxical considering the fact that Utah’s dominant religion, the LDS church, functions as a male governed society.
Jennifer Sumsion, Utah Valley University Art I am influenced by natural elements, the combination of shapes, colors and textures are what interest me. The commonplace, banal and unnoticed aspects of nature draws my focus and inspires me capture images to my vision and transform them onto paper and canvas. The constant change in rocks, leaves, skies, trees and water continue to focus my attention and are reflected back into my images. The balance of lines, colors and tones adds patterns energy and new life when mixed together. Nature can look foreign when viewed close-up, intensifying the smallest detail. Unnatural influence on the environment has added a unique aspect to nature. It can create extraordinary patterns and encourage new images that are beautiful in themselves. I enjoy the way leaves fall on a sidewalk, the patterns of melted water and salt on the road after a snowstorm, the ice crystals that form on tree limbs when pollution levels are high and the light and shapes reflected in shoveled snow when it begins to melt. I use cool and warm colors together to create a bounce off of each other. I enjoy using oil paints, ink charcoal, acrylic, and nupastels in my work.
Use of Anomalies in the Earth’s Total Magnetic Field to Locate Copper, Gold, and Silver Deposits in Fissure Veins, Tintic Mining District, Central Utah
Michael Alexander, Utah Valley University Academic Affairs The Tintic Mining District is located in central Utah on the eastern edge of the Basin and Range Province. This area experienced significant hydrothermal alteration associated with volcanism in the early Cenozoic Era. This hydrothermal alteration was productive of sulfide ore deposition along fissure veins, including ores of copper, gold and silver. Previous aeromagnetic surveys showed that porphyry copper assemblages are associated with mappable anomalies in the Earth’s total magnetic field. The magnetic anomalies were interpreted as resulting from buried intrusive igneous rocks associated with the porphyry copper assemblages. The objective of this research is to map buried fissure veins on property owned by NorthStar Mine using a ground-based survey of anomalies in the Earth’s total magnetic field. This study will be the first geophysical mapping of fissure veins in this area. Previous work by the author and other Utah Valley University students showed that total magnetic field anomalies could be used to map halloysite clay deposits, the copper sulfide deposits associated with buried basaltic dikes, and a wide variety of igneous rock bodies including buried bodies of quartz monzonite, rhyolite and tuff. Because the igneous rocks are considered to be the source of hydrothermal fluids, further mapping of the distribution of igneous rocks could give some insight into the migration of fluids that deposited ore in fissure veins. The ground-based magnetic survey will be carried out using the Geometrics G-856 Proton Precession Magnetometer. Magnetic susceptibilities of outcrops will be measured using the handheld SM-10 Magnetic Susceptibility Meter. Rock samples will also be collected for crushing and more precise measurement of magnetic susceptibility in the lab using the Bartington MS3 Magnetic Susceptibility Meter. Mapped magnetic anomalies will be compared with possible subsurface rock bodies using the IX2D Magnetic Interpretation Software. All necessary equipment is currently owned by the Department of Earth Science. This research is being carried out in cooperation with NorthStar Mine. Results will be reported at the meeting.
Jonathan Hilbert, Utah Valley University Academic Affairs The Jordan River in Utah has been highly regulated for many years through intense irrigation, channelization, and managed releases from Utah Lake. As the only outlet of Utah Lake flowing north into the Great Salt Lake, it is important to the riparian ecosystem and the surrounding human population as well. The river has a long history of mixed-uses, but it is emerging as a popular recreation site for the numerous adjacent communities. Human interaction on the individual and commercial scale influences the river through development and urbanization. The physical characteristics of the river and its riparian zone can be monitored to understand how the landscape is changing over time. In this study we focus on land cover changes in the riparian zone of the upper one-third of the river flowing out of Utah Lake to what is called “the point of the mountain”. This is the portion of the river that flows in Utah County. From aerial imagery and field observations, we noted alterations in the vegetation within the riparian zone from channelization, riprap, invasive species, or removal for a variety of reasons. We use GIS and aerial imagery to evaluate the land cover change on the Jordan River in Utah County between 1992-2011. Using Anderson’s classification system of land cover, specifically Urban or Built-Up Land, Agriculture, Vegetation, and Barren Earth, we quantified the changes in vegetation within a 100 meter buffer of the river’s wetted channel. While there are areas where little change is observed, areas of greatest change occurred downstream of the outlet, where a number of new communities have been developed in the last decade. As a subset of Vegetation we mapped changed in invasive species, tamarisk and reed canary grass, along the same section of the river within the riparian zone. Urban planning and invasive species removal along the river needs to be further considered as potential future recreation and restoration efforts are advanced on the river.
Monica Cervantes, Utah Valley University The central research question of this project was to determine if high-frequency ultrasound is sensitive to tissue pathology at the microscopic level. Previous studies on surgical specimens have shown that high-frequency ultrasound may be sensitive to a range of breast pathologies including fibroadenomas, atypical ductal hyperplasia, fibrocystic changes, and carcinomas. The ultrasonic parameters that were sensitive to pathology were the number of peaks (the peak density) of the first-order spectra of the waveforms (one forward Fourier transform), and the slope of the second-order spectra of the waveforms (two consecutive forward Fourier transforms). The ability to determine pathology rapidly and with minimal specimen preparation would make high-frequency ultrasound particularly well-suited for real-time use during cancer surgery to ensure all of the malignant tissue has been removed. The purpose of this research was to determine the sensitivity of the peak density and spectral slope to tissue microstructures other than those found in breast cancer. The results of this study would not only support the results from the breast cancer studies, but also extend those results to the detection of cancer and other diseases in a range of organs and tissues. The research methodology included the following steps. (1) Freshly excised bovine organs were obtained from a meat packaging facility, including the heart, liver, and kidney. (2) Specimens approximately 3x3x1 cm in size were dissected from the organs and tested immediately with ultrasound. (3) Both pitch-catch and pulse-echo waveforms were acquired from the samples. (4) The data were analyzed by determining the peak densities and spectral slopes. The results showed that the more heterogeneous tissues of the heart, the vascular structures (aorta, vena cava, etc.), displayed significantly higher peak densities than the muscle tissues. Similarly, the ureter, which has greater heterogeneities in its structure (larger and more varied), displayed significantly higher peak densities than the cortex and medulla tissues. No significant trends were observed for the liver tissue, or for the spectral slopes except for kidney medulla tissue. Heterogeneity and peak density in high-frequency ultrasonic spectra that may be useful for performing real-time pathology during cancer surgery.
Robert Bradford, Utah Valley University Biology Most organisms exhibit latitudinal gradients in diversity (i.e., taxonomic richness decreases as latitude increases). Few studies have sought latitudinal gradients in lichens, especially in the midlatitudes. Our primary questions were: 1) do lichens along the west coast of the United States show latitudinal gradients? 2) If so, what is the rate of change and does the level of taxonomic richness affect this rate? We hypothesized that lichens would show a reverse latitudinal gradient in the region, as has been documented for lichens elsewhere in the northern hemisphere, but at a considerably smaller scale. This study fills in the gap in our understanding of lichen latitudinal gradients over large areas of North America. It also functions as a baseline for future climate change and conservation efforts. Our study area is bound at the south by the California-Mexico border (32.331° N) and at the north by the Washington-Canada border (47.178° N), and extends inland from the coastline to the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains (116.083° W, at its eastern -most point). We divided the region into 218 roughly equal-area (cite) grid cells using GIS, each bordered with latitudinal and longitudinal lines. We derived a list of all vouchered lichen specimens in each grid cell using Consortium of North American Lichen Herbaria, an online database. The data were synonymized, and species, generic, and familial richness were calculated for each grid cell. We found no correlation (R2 = 0.2306) between latitude and species richness, using the raw vouchered data. What we did find was a strong correlation (R2=0.9069) between sample density and species richness. These results are biased by sample density and do not reflect what is naturally occurring. We hypothesize that we can get an unbiased estimate of richness with MaxEnt models. Using the georeferenced lichen distributions and related climate data, we constructed species distribution models of all species with five or more occurrences (990 species). In GIS, we projected all 990 distribution models and our 218 grid cells together to calculate species richness for each cell at various thresholds (i.e. likelihood of occurrence at 10%, 20%, 30%, etc.).
Laurel Thompson, Utah Valley University Academic Affairs Soldiers and non-combatants are at risk of exposure to dangerous aerosols (airborne particles or droplets) in the form of biological agents such as bacteria, toxins, or viruses. The current method for assessing health risk in the field is a moist swath which turns dark upon contact with a biological aerosol. Optical methods are more sensitive to the physical properties of aerosols, and many systems have been developed for optically measuring particle properties. However, they are generally limited to bio-aerosol detection at a single point in space where the system directly samples an aerosol from within the aerosol cloud. The desired solution is a system that can employ remote sensing to measure aerosol properties from a distance. Standoff detection methods allow a much larger area to be measured at once, providing a more general or big-picture view of the aerosols in a given area. There are several ways that standoff optical scattering data can be analyzed for determining aerosol properties. Light scattered by aerosols of known size and composition can be modeled exceptionally well with Mie scattering theory, but the reverse problem determining aerosol properties from the light signals using inverse Mie theory is difficult to solve because a unique set of aerosol properties must be found to correspond to the optical spectra. This is challenging since different combinations of aerosol properties can result in similar spectra. The size distribution, however, has a large effect on the optical signal and may therefore be used to differentiate aerosols. Specifically, biological aerosols have a more narrow size distribution than mineral-based dusts due to genetic limitations. Their refractive indices will also contribute to distinct optical spectra. The hypothesis for this project was that these factors would be sufficient to classify aerosols for risk assessment. Three analysis methods were used to test this hypothesis: Mie inversion with matrix solutions, empirical curve fitting with polynomial functions, and principal component analysis (PCA). Particles suspended in methanol were used as the model aerosol system. A range of particle sizes and compositions were illuminated by a balanced deuterium/halogen light source and spectral measurements from 200-1100 nm were taken. Optical data over a 200-1300 nm range were also collected from a variety of bio-aerosols using an open path remote sensing system at a 30-meter standoff distance.
Janeese Stiles, Utah Valley University Academic Affairs Previous studies have shown that high-frequency (HF) ultrasound is sensitive to cell properties such as stiffness and adhesion factors which are a function of protein expression. The goal of this project is to see if HF ultrasound is sensitive enough to detect and differentiate between the five molecular subtypes of breast cancer which are based on protein expression. Since genetic changes precede histological changes in the development of breast cancer, the ability to detect genetic changes (i.e., molecular subtypes) in breast tissue in real time and at the microscopic level will allow surgeons to remove all of the malignant and premalignant tissue during lumpectomies. HF ultrasound personalizes the treatment plan and will be used as a diagnostic technique for precise, image-guided breast cancer surgery. Four breast cancer cell lines with different molecular subtypes and a non-malignant breast cell line will be grown as monolayer cultures. At monolayer confluence, cell and nuclei morphologies of the cell cultures will be determined by phase-contrast microscopy. After microscopy, the monolayers will be ultrasonically tested using a HF ultrasonic test system with a single-element (50 MHz, 6.35-mm) ultrasonic immersion transducer. The resulting ultrasonic waveforms will be analyzed using computational models that simulate the ultrasonic scattering from cells and nuclei as a function of morphology, internal properties, and external properties. The protein expressions associated with the different subtypes will be researched to determine what effects each subtype will have on cell and tissue properties. This method will add a new dimension to pathology and permit more efficient surgical treatment of breast cancer.
Chelsea Newsome, Utah Valley University Academic Affairs In the emerging profession of health education there has been a lack of attention on the needs of health education specialists. Recently at Utah Valley University, Dr. Mary V. Brown, and undergraduate students in the Public and Community Health Education department, conducted research focusing on if the needs of health education specialists were being met. Qualitative data collection methods were used to help in needs assessment, planning, goal setting, and quality improvement for both professional organizations and academic institutions. Student Researchers held five focus groups throughout the state of Utah to gather insights from health educators on what they believe are emerging trends, most useful coursework in the academic setting, and professional development needs. The questions used in the focus groups were developed from the assistance of two state professional organizations. The students involved were trained to be moderators and note takers by using guidelines from Krueger and Casey (2000). The data was analyzed using the long table approach outlined by Krueger and Casey (2000). The results showed that the health educators perceived the top emerging trends were social marketing, followed by social media, and a greater focus on primary prevention. As researchers we found the most helpful information for academic institutions would be what the health educators felt were lacking in their educational experiences. The health educators wished that grant writing, computer programs/technical skills/ designing brochures, real life experience/opportunities to apply their knowledge in community settings/practical application classes had been offered in their program of study. With regard to professional development, we found the majority of health educators were supported from upper management to receive continuing education depending on funds. The classes they wanted more of at these continuing education conferences are knowledge in politics, technology, and developing partnerships in the community. This information will be a benefit to both the professional organizations and academic institutions in the state of Utah to improve training of professionals and students alike.
Licia Kim, Utah Valley University Academic Affairs Utah is a state that was largely settled by immigrants, and among those immigrants were hundreds of Chinese people. For over 70 years, Salt Lake City was home to one of the most prominent Chinatowns in the Intermountain West. Today, Utah is home to over 10,000 Chinese people, but there is no Chinatown in Utah. If the average Utahan is asked “Whatever happened to Salt Lake’s Chinatown?” the answer will invariably be a variation of “Salt Lake had/has a Chinatown?” Yes, Salt Lake City had a Chinatown and this research project answers the question of what happened to it. By exploring existing scholarly works, oral interviews and newspaper articles from the years that Plum Alley, Salt Lake City’s Chinatown, existed, I examined the creation, heyday, decline and eventual demise of Utah’s largest Chinatown. According to my research, the Plum Alley Chinatown disappeared because of a combination of cultural/religious differences, economic pressures, racial issues, and political/legal restrictions. As the significance of China, both to Utah and the United States as a whole, increases, an opportunity is created to increase public awareness of the Chinese experience in Utah’s history. Once this history is known, Plum Alley’s location, in a familiar, near-by location, will provide students in Chinese immersion classes (and their parents) with an opportunity to form a more immediate connection with these distant people. The goal of this research is therefore twofold: 1) to create a research article suitable for publication in a scholarly journal, and 2) to create a PowerPoint presentation and/or traveling historical exhibit on Plum Alley suitable for display at schools, public libraries and other community centers (such as the new South Salt Lake Chinatown shopping center). Simple entrance and exit surveys will allow me to track the effectiveness of the presentation/exhibit to increase visitor awareness of this little known chapter in Utah history.
Buchanan Kerswell, Utah Valley University Academic Affairs Increase in population and wealth in Utah will likely result in increased fossil fuel consumption. Consequently it will lead to more environmental problems, especially air quality and health issues. It is essential to further the research and assessment of renewable energy sources. The objective of this research is to compile, analyze, map and assess energy data from the Utah Geological Survey, Utah Office of Energy Development and Utah Department of Environmental Protection. Our project will give public a clear picture of air quality and energy use coupling with population and economic growth. ArcGIS maps and statistical analysis will be made using the available database. Furthermore, detailed assessments on the development potentials of different renewable energy sources (e.g. solar, wind, geothermal) in Utah will be conducted using ArcGIS. Our preliminary data analysis on fossil fuels indicates that consumption and expenditures have grown over time with population growth. A notable fact is that when expenditures have risen rapidly, consumption tends to decline. The most recent evident periods are during the early 1980s and in the early 2000s, when oil prices were rapidly increasing. Furthermore, the data show that air quality is closely correlated with the quantity of fossil fuel consumed, especially given Utah’s special topography (the valley effect). The data on renewable energy sources have revealed that all renewable energy sources together provide less than 1% of energy need in Utah. Although the growth and development have varied during the last half century, there is a steady growth in geothermal, solar and wind energy over the last decade. Results from ArcGIS mapping will provide useful insights on zoning and assessing potential renewable energy sources in Utah. Renewable energy is the key to our economic growth and clean air in Utah. It is essential that the transition from a primarily carbon-based energy portfolio be to one that includes a greater mix of renewable sources. Further results, analyses and maps will be presented during the meeting.
Characterizing the Role of HspB2 in Cardiac Metabolism and Muscle Structure Using Yeast and Mammalian Cells
Whitney Hoopes, Brigham Young University Microbiology and Molecular Biology HspB2 is one of eleven known small Heat Shock Proteins (sHSP) that is expressed in human heart and skeletal muscle. In response to cellular stress, heat shock proteins play a vital role to help misfolded proteins and proteins susceptible to denaturation maintain their structure. Two members of the sHSP family, CryAB and HspB2, are both required for normal heart function and cardiac muscle integrity. CryAB-deficient mice have defects in cardiac muscle structure whereas HspB2-deficient mice display energy deficits (Rajasekaran et al. 2007). The contrasting phenotypes of CryAB and HspB2 suggest differential roles for these molecular chaperones in the heart. HspB2 has been found to localize with the mitochondria in several different cell lines and overexpression of this sHSP has been shown to support survival of cells against heat stress (Nakagawa, 2001). To understand the role and mechanism of HspB2 in cardiac muscle energy regulation, we have used a yeast two-hybrid (Y2H) system to uncover the novel protein binding partners specific to HspB2. From screening a human heart cDNA library, HspB2 interacted with approximately 10,000 out of 20 million plasmids. We have sequenced more than 1000 of these putative interactors and have identified over 100 unique proteins. Over 40% of these protein partners are involved in mitochondrial energy production and another 25% in cardiac muscle structure maintenance. In addition, we have identified an interaction between HspB2 and the related sHSP CryAB. We then compared this data with mitochondrial HspB2 binding partners identified by mass spectroscopy (MS) through a large-scale bioinformatics analysis and constructed a protein-protein network. Y2H dependency tests were conducted to verify interactions identified by both Y2H and MS. Following yeast verification, a subset of the interactions were confirmed in C9H2 cardiac cells through coimmunopurification. Our research describes the first protein-protein interaction network for any sHSP, supports a role for HspB2 in mitochondrial energy production and suggests a link between mitochondrial energy production/redox stasis and stressed cardiac muscle maintenance.
Tara Hammond, Brigham Young University Microbiology and Molecular Biology Genetic diseases, including Alzheimer’s, cystic fibrosis, and many cancers, can be detrimental to individuals and their families. Gene therapy can possibly cure these diseases by inserting a correct copy of the gene into the chromosome, upregulating good genes, or downregulating the harmful gene. When DNA is packaged into a cell, it wraps around histones-an octamer made up of two tetramers, each containing four different subunits to create nucleosomes. Where the nucleosome sits on the DNA sequence determines whether or not a gene can be transcribed. In heterochromatin, nucleosomes are denser and DNA is tightly packed, thus causing genes to not be transcribed. Euchromatin contains looser packed nucleosomes and therefore has higher transcription levels. This project seeks to determine if modified nucleosomes have DNA sequence preferences. We are working with histone H3 to tri-methylate lysine 4, which has been shown to correlate with euchromatin. The modified histone will be used to create octamers. C. elegans DNA will be added to modified histones and to unmodified histones and allowed to create nucleosomes. The wrapped DNA will be sequenced, allowing us to compare the modified and unmodified nucleosome DNA preference. The difference in preference will enhance our ability to know how to move nucleosomes, thus aiding in gene therapy.
APOE e4 Independent Associations in the APOE Gene Region with Cerebrospinal Fluid Levels of Amyloid Beta 42 in Alzheimer’s Disease
Spencer Foutz, Brigham Young University Biology CSF AB42 levels are a biomarker for Alzheimer’s Disease. The APOE e4 allele associates with CSF AB42. Little is known about SNPs in the region independent of apoe e2/e3/e4 isoforms. By adjusting for the effect of these isoforms, statistical analysis uncovered new SNPS associated with CSF AB42. Information was used from 1338 individuals from four datasets, specifically: The WU-ADRC, ADNI, University of Washington, and UPENN. Samples included individuals with and without AD. The 169 SNPs used were extracted from the APOE region and surrounding 50 kb using 1000 Genome Software. Linear regression analysis was performed, adjusting for specific covariates. Adjustments were made for the APOE e2 and e4 alleles before repeating the analysis. Significant SNPs were tested in e3 homozygous individuals. Each series was separately analyzed and combined in a meta-analysis for confirmation. P-values, sample sizes, and effect sizes were used in the meta-analysis. Results from these analyses allowed us to conclude rs769449 is associated with lower levels of CSF AB42 and acts independent of the APOE e4 allele.
Urbanization and its Effects on Prey Preference in Wandering Garter Snakes (Thamnophis elegans vagrant)
Dillon Monroe, Southern Utah University Biology When an area is developed no part of that habitat is left unaffected. Urbanization creates many problems for animals by creating physical barriers, fragmenting habitat, introducing completely new habitat, and introducing species. Exotic species are often better competitors for resources and often competitively exclude native species, resulting in population declines and ecosystem disruption. Despite the negative effects of urbanization some species are able to adapt and survive in urban ecosystems. One such species is the wandering garter snake (Thamnophis elegans vagrans). This species is described as a generalist in habitat selection and is often seen in urban communities basking on sidewalks and pavement, living in gardens, and feeding on rodents, insects, and other species. One unique characteristic of this genus is that prey preference has been observed as being a genetic trait and possesses variation, and as such can be modified via natural selection. For my research project I looked at whether prey preference of T. elegans vagrans differs between snakes from three different locations with varying levels of human development. From these three locations in Utah, Tropic reservoir, Monroe (Sevier River), and Utah Lake, we obtained a total of 14 snakes and found that in this group of snakes there is no correlation of prey preference in snakes to level of development of the habitat.
Sarah Miller, Southern Utah University Biology As humans, we have the ability to change our diets if we are deficient in any specific nutrient. Many animals have the ability to change their diet if they are deficient in nutrients. However, for many carnivores, it is generally thought that a prey item will have the same nutritional composition as the predator body composition. Carnivores are limited nutritionally in their diet. This means that they only get nutrients from the prey that they are able to locate to consume. This study is investigating prey choice of invertebrate predators (wolf spiders) when their prey item has been altered to be deficient in one specific nutrient (lipid or protein). I predict that the spiders will be able to choose the correct prey item for the nutrient in which they are deficient. The total weight of flies eaten in each treatment will be measured to determine if wolf spiders select prey items based on the nutrient content of the prey. Results will be analyzed using a nested ANOVA.
Developing Recipes That Reduce The Fat Content In Baked Foods Where The Fat Substitutes Are Common Foods
Sarah Miller, Southern Utah University Agriculture and Nutrition Science The high intake of fat in the average American diet is a growing concern to the nutritional community. High levels of total fat intake increase cardiovascular disease (CVD) which is the number one killer in America. The successful development of low fat recipes that can be accessed and produced by the general population is valuable to the fight against obesity and CVD. If acceptable products can be made with lower fat content then it is possible to lower the fat intake in a person’s diet. This study is designed to test the acceptability of low-fat desserts using every day food products available for home use as fat substitutes. Four popular “name-brand” recipes were altered by removing 55-73% of the fat and replacing it with a common food item, either pureed white or pinto beans, applesauce or yogurt. Southern Utah University students were recruited via flyers, in class announcements, and word of mouth. Participants (n=56) were asked to taste and evaluate the four products. Afterwards they completed a short survey about their knowledge of low-fat food substitutes and acceptability of the products. Results and conclusions forthcoming.
Antimicrobial Properties of Essential Oils Isolated from Anthoxanthum hirtum and A. odoratum Against Soil Bacteria
Harsh Kansagra, Southern Utah University Biology Anthoxanthum hirtum is a native grass with many traditional and modern uses, including human medicinal benefits. Populations are found locally in Utah, but at higher elevations, usually above 2500 m. Indigenous people used native sweetgrass in a variety of ways, including medicinally, as ceremonial incense, and in basketry. The active compound that elicits the sweet fragrance of the grass is produced by coumarin, a secondary metabolite used today both medicinally and commercially. Plants most often produce secondary metabolites, or essential oils, as a defense against pathogens, but these antimicrobial properties have not been investigated in A. hirtum. Our research used the Kirby-Bauer disk diffusion test to determine if closely related commercial diploid and polyploid sweetgrass strains (Anthoxanthum odoratum), as well as plants from native A. hirtum populations, produce zones of inhibition when tested against associated soil bacteria and fungi. Results of our research showed all species tested produced inhibition zones, but zone size varied in response to the secondary metabolites produced by each plant type. Despite this variation, these data suggest components of the essential oils may have antimicrobial properties. Results of this study increase our understanding of the antimicrobial properties of secondary metabolites produced by A. hirtum as well as the essential oils produced by commercial diploid and polyploid strains. Future studies will focus on identifying the chemical composition of each extract as well as the specific bacterial and fungal species associated with each plant.
Characterizing the Properties of Cell Volume Regulation in Retinal Neurons and Glia: A Role for the Mechanosensitive Cation Channel TRPV4
Andrew Jo, University of Utah Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences All cells, including retinal neurons and glia, must sense and adapt to physical changes in their local environment (e.g. changes in osmotic pressure). Osmotic water flux can cause aberrant cell volume changes, which can contribute to tissue damage, edema, and neuronal hyperexcitability and excitotoxicity. We hypothesized that force-sensitive proteins enable retinal cells to monitor their physical form (e.g. volume) and help maintain homeostasis by regulating cell volume. To test this, we first investigated the properties of cell morphology when cells were bathed in solutions with different tonicities. Under these conditions, we measured changes in cell volume due to osmosis in retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and Müller glia. We found RGCs were unable to actively adjust their volume, whereas Müller glia reduced their swollen volume in the continued presence of hypotonicity. The regulation of cellular volume often involves calcium signals. We tested whether calcium plays a role in the regulation of retinal cell volume. Free calcium within the cells was sequestered using cytosolic BAPTA, which decreased the extent of hypotonic swelling. This demonstrates that calcium elevations increase the extent of cell swelling. Because cell volume was dependent on calcium, which was elevated by membrane stretch, we hypothesized that the osmosensitive cation channel TRPV4 would transduce osmotic pressure and contribute to cell volume regulation. In an experiment using a selective TRPV4 inhibitor, the extent of hypotonic-induced swelling was reduced. Thus, the opening of TRPV4 leads to a calcium influx that exacerbated cellular swelling. In addition, we tested the idea that TRPV1 cation channel is involved in responses to osmotic stimuli. In an experiment using a selective TRPV1 antagonist, preliminary results show that the extent of hypotonic-induced swelling decreased. This signals that TRPV1 may have a role in volume regulation in retinal neurons and glia. Thus, inhibition of these force-sensitive protein channels might alleviate the deleterious effects of volume changes in pathological contexts. Our findings therefore have implications for our understanding of retinal mechanotransduction and osmoregulation as well as provide a mechanistic framework for developing new therapeutic strategies aimed at blinding conditions that involve mechanical stress and cellular morphology.
Viktor Jiracek, University of Utah Biology The nervous system is responsible for cognition, memory, and motor function. Neurons communicate with each other at intercellular connections called synapses. It is at these locations that vesicles fuse with the plasma membrane and release their contents into the space between the neurons (synaptic cleft). SNARE proteins (synaptobrevin, syntaxin and SNAP-25) facilitate synaptic vesicle fusion by winding together in a four-helix bundle forcing the mixture of opposing membranes. After exocytosis, the cell regenerates vesicles by a process called endocytosis. This process involves the budding of membrane back into the cytoplasm re-forming a functional synaptic vesicle. This progression from vesicle fusion to internalization is termed the “synaptic vesicle cycle” and is coordinated by a long list of molecular players. The SNARE proteins are classically considered to be unique to exocytosis. However, preliminary results from Erik Jorgensen’s lab have implicated SNAP-25 in endocytosis. Although we have evidence that SNAP-25 is required for endocytosis, the molecular mechanism is completely unknown. In this proposal we use forward genetics in the model organism C. elegans to identify novel protein interactions required for SNAP-25 mediated endocytosis. We have designed three suppressor screens that are predicted to target the role of SNAP-25 in exocytosis, endocytosis and general function. The first two screens use crippled forms of SNAP-25 (hypomorphs) while the last screen uses a deletion allele of the SNAP-25 gene (null mutation). With these screens we hope to precisely identify the molecular players involved in SNAP-25 mediated endocytosis versus exocytosis.
Joshua Horns, University of Utah Biology There are numerous arresting differences between the hands of humans and those of chimps, principally among them the shortening of metacarpals 2-5, the relative increase in length of the thumb, and the development of separate musculature controlling flexion of the thumb. In addition to improving manual dexterity, these changes allow humans, in contrast to chimps and other apes, to make a buttressed fist with the phalanges pressed against the central palm and the thumb adducted onto the dorsal surface of the phalanges. We believe this hand posture greatly reduces the strain experienced by a fully formed fist when striking with force, thereby rendering the human hand as a more effective weapon. We tested this idea by manipulating the tendons in a cadaver arm to induce the hand to form into buttressed and non-buttressed conformations, and then tested each conformation by having the hand strike a hanging instrumented mass to measure the force of each strike. Additionally, the 2nd metacarpal of the hand was fitted with a strain gauge so that strain in the bone could be compared to the force of the strikes. The results of these tests showed that there was a significant drop in strain in the buttressed fist (in comparison to the non-buttressed) for a given force.
Makenzie Hawkins, University of Utah Nutrition Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States. Gamma-tocopherol (GTC) has been studied in its relation to hypertension and CVD. GTC has protective effects on the endothelium of arteries; the endothelium is in part responsible for regulating arterial relaxation and reducing blood pressure (BP). Diabetic mice (DB) were chosen for this study because of the associated co-morbidities of hypertension and excess body weight. Eight-week-old mice were divided into 3 separate groups: wild-type fed control (CON) diets (n=12), DB fed CON diets (n=12), and DB fed GTC supplemented diets (0.1%, n=12). BP was measured every week for 8 wk. Body weights were measured every wk and morphometric values were measured at the end of the 8-wk period. There was no statistically significant (P<0.05) difference in systolic and diastolic BP between DB-GTC and DB-CON. There was also no statistically significant (P<0.05) difference in heart rate between DB-GTC and DB-CON. After 8 wk, DB-GTC mice had lower (P<0.05) body weight versus the DB-CON group. In conclusion, a GTC supplemented diet did not result in a change in BP. However, GTC may have blunted weight gain and adipose tissue mass in DB-GTC compared to DB-CON. We speculate this may be due to a reduction of food consumption during the experimental period.
Christian Boekweg, Brigham Young University Plant and Wildlife Sciences It has been shown that the population densities of deer and elk in the Rocky Mountains are at an unprecedented high. The heavy browsing of said species (ungulates) on regenerating aspen suckers can be devastating, leading to homogenously aged aspen stands that now have reduced resilience to drought, fire or logging disturbance, and an increased susceptibility to pathogens. Lastly, the extensive, highly selective herbivory of the aspen suckers may cause a shift in forest composition away from the aspen tree to an increase in other, less palatable species. We selected 186 sites across the 3 national forests of Central and Southern Utah, and characterized stand composition using the point quarter method. Stands were defined by successional stages from early to late; aspen, mixed or conifer. We then used pellet counts to estimate animal density and evaluated the effect of animal density and stand type on the regeneration success of aspen suckers. The key result of our study is that high ungulate density is highly correlated with reduced sucker heights (p<0.001). This indicates that high ungulate density impedes aspen regeneration by preventing aspen from recruiting into the overstory. Our study suggests that closer monitoring of the long term effects of herbivory on aspen development and regeneration is necessary to ensure vigorous aspen forests.
Linkage Analysis of Late Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Population in Search of Chromosomal Region Harboring Rare Causal Variants
Kevin Boehme, Brigham Young University Biology Late Onset Alzheimer disease (LOAD) is caused by a complex combination of genetic and environmental factors. While multiple loci have been found associated with an increased risk of LOAD much of the heritability of the disease has yet to be accounted for. The prevailing thought now is that of rare variants playing an important role in LOAD. In this study we will use linkage analysis to identify novel regions of the genome that may harbor rare disease causing variants. Data for these analysis comes from 748 people (503 with LOAD) from the Cache County study on Memory and Aging. This unique population based sample provides great power for linkage as relatedness differs from siblings to distant relatives and complete pedigree information is available for all of the individuals. We will use LD-pruned SNP data from the Illumina Omniexpress BeadChip and pedigree data from the Cache County samples to perform linkage analysis. Quality control and LD-pruning will be con- ducted in PLINK while the Linkage analyses will be conducted using the MERLIN software. Our findings will be reported in the final poster presentation.
Lee Leavitt, University of Utah Biology Chronic methamphetamine (METH) abuse leads to structural and functional damage in the brain, which likely contributes to cognitive and behavioral dysfunction. Recent data suggest an association between METH abuse and impaired inhibitory control over behavior; that is an impaired ability to inhibit inappropriate actions or thoughts. However, the extent to which METH-induced neurotoxicity is responsible for such impairment remains to be determined. Previously, we reported that rats with METH-induced partial dopamine (DA) and serotonin (5-HT) loss in striatum and prefrontal cortex (PFC) exhibited impaired response inhibition in the form of perseverative responding. Furthermore, levels of serotonin transporter (SERT) binding in PFC correlated with perseverative responding. Herein, we have examined another dimension of response inhibition impulsive action, which is an inability to withhold a “pre-potent” response in rats with METH-induced neurotoxicity. Rats were trained to perform a stop-signal task (SST). Once rats achieved stable responding (>80% correct response) on both “Go” and “Stop” trials, they were treated with saline (0.9%), a neurotoxic regimen of METH (4 x 10 mg/kg, 2-hr intervals, s.c.) under normal ambient temperature conditions (“neurotoxic” METH group) or the METH regimen under cooling conditions (“normothermic” METH group). One week after the treatment, rats were again tested on the SST. After behavioral tests were done, animals were sacrificed and brains removed for determination of monoamine loss. The results showed: 1) the “neurotoxic” METH-, but not the “normothermic” METH or saline-treated rats, showed a 40-60% loss of SERT and dopamine transporter (DAT) binding in PFC and striatum; 2) the “neurotoxic” METH group showed normal behavioral performance in “Go” trials of the SST relative to the “normothermic” METH group or saline controls; 3) the “neurotoxic” METH group exhibited impaired withholding of a “pre-potent” response, as reflected by increased numbers of errors on the “Stop” trials of the SST. Overall, these data suggest that impaired inhibitory control over behavior (i.e., increased impulsive action) can arise as a consequence of METH-induced neurotoxicity to central dopamine and serotonin systems. Supported by NIH grant DA 024036
Jason Bartholomew, Brigham Young University Plant and Wildlife Sciences After disturbances in plant communities (i.e. wildfire), there is a natural succession of plants in which plants colonize the empty area and are gradually replaced by more competitive species. In subalpine forests, the principle colonizers after wildfire are quaking aspen (Populous tremuloides) which are later replaced by subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa). It has been shown that aspen facilitate, or enable, the establishment of subalpine fir at their base. This study examines the aspen-subalpine fir interaction in order to better understand the dynamics of the shift from aspen to fir dominance. It is hypothesized that the fir in a facilitated pair eventually exerts a competitive influence on the aspen resulting in a decrease in aspen fitness. The growth rates of the two species were examined in different stand types (aspen, mixed and subalpine fir), as independent trees or in facilitated pairs, and in three separate size classes. Samples were collected by taking a core sample or cross-section from trees within the categories listed above. The age and annual growth rings were measured with a measuring stage. The annual growth rings were used to calculate basal area increase (BAI) which was used to determine growth rates. The results suggest the growth rate of aspen in facilitated pairs decreases as firs mature thereby decreasing fitness within the aspen population due to competitive influences from facilitated firs. This may explain the mechanism for the successional shift that can significantly impact indigenous animal populations and local fire cycles.
Bryce Anderson, Brigham Young University Microbiology and Molecular Biology Antigen presenting cells digest and display peptides from foreign and infected cells on the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) that are recognized by T-cells through their T cell receptor (TCR). The affinity of TCR:peptide-MHC interactions has been shown to be low however, and in order to effectively use a soluble TCR for therapeutics we need to engineer TCRs with increased affinity. To do this, we have designed a single chain TCR (ValphaVbeta) called LLO118 that is specific for a naturally occurring Listeria monocytogenes epitope. Using yeast display, stable mutants that expressed the LLO118 scTCR at higher levels than the wild type on the surface of yeast were isolated and sequenced. In order to improve affinity of LLO118 we are mutating amino acid residues in the complementarity determining regions, sites important for the TCR to bind with the peptide-MHC. We are generating unique libraries of yeast cells with TCRs that have potential affinity mutations and using fluorescently labeled peptide-MHC tetramers to select cells that have TCRs with higher affinity. By repeating this process with the cells that have higher affinity we are working to get a TCR that binds with much higher affinity than the wild type TCR. These high affinity TCRs are promising for further research in connecting them to a cytokine, greatly reducing systemic damage and other complications caused by administration of this cytokine throughout the body. Thus, our goal is to design a high affinity TCR fused to a cytokine that can be tested for therapeutic use in targeting specific cells in the immune response and improving T cell memory.
Brad Ackerson, Brigham Young University Neuroscience The highjacking by alcohol and drugs of abuse of the mesocortico-limbic system in the brain is responsible for addiction, specifically the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and its projecting dopaminergic neurons to the nucleus accumbens (NAc). Over the course of addiction, a hedonic response is developed from lower than normal levels of dopamine (DA) in which the individual pursues drug-seeking behavior. The current accepted treatment methods for addiction are replacement drug therapies, group therapy, or individual counseling – the prior being associated with additional side-effects and an inability to overcome the hedonic response of the addiction. The aim of this study was to evaluate alternative and natural therapeutics that produce long-term potentiation (LTP) of the neuronal systems involved in order to overcome addiction with minimal to no side-effects. Using fast-scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV), the effects of baicalein, a flavonoid isolated from the root of Sculletaria Baicalensis, and low-level laser therapy (LLLT) on DA release in the NAc core were evaluated in vitro and in vivo in Wistar rats. Local stimulation evoked in vitro demonstrated that baicalein administration (10, 50, 100 uM) 30 minutes prior to 80 mM ethanol attenuated the DA inhibition of ethanol. DA signals were evoked in vivo in the core of the NAc by electrical stimulation of the medial forebrain bundle (MFB) at the level of the lateral hypothalamus (60 Hz, 60 pulses) in isoflurane anesthetized rats. Both the intraperitoneal (IP) administration of baicalein (1.0 mg/kg) and the administration of LLLT (25 Hz, 630 nm) 30 minutes prior to ethanol (2.0 g/kg) administration IP attenuated the DA inhibition of ethanol. These findings suggest that baicalein and LLLT may prove as effective clinical therapies for addiction.
Katie Fisher, Utah State University Watershed Science Arctic lakes are very sensitive to the effects of climate change. It is important to understand the current food web dynamic and energy flow within these lakes to better understand how they will change in the future due to the effects of a rapidly changing climate. In order to understand the current conditions in arctic lakes, this project consists of an analysis of stable isotopes of carbon (13C) and nitrogen (15N) from invertebrates among fish and fishless lakes in arctic Alaska to compare their trophic level positions and primary energetic sources. In order to carry out this analysis, I collected pelagic invertebrates were collected from 6 different lakes, 3 of which have resident fish populations and 3 of which are fishless. Samples collected in 2011 were analyzed for stable isotope composition by a mass spectrometer at University of California Davis. Results from samples collected in 2012 are pending at Washington State University. I will analyze and correlate the stable isotope results with isotopic data collected from other related projects. With this analysis, I will create food webs to 1) assign trophic positions to each species in each lake and compare those positions across lakes, 2) assess the potential effect fish predation has on pelagic invertebrate community structure. I hypothesize that fish predation will determine zooplankton community structure (e.g., dominant taxa) and alter trophic linkages (e.g., secondary trophic level predation rates).
Kevin Cope, Utah State University Plants, Soils, and Climate Photosynthesis is driven primarily by radiation between 400 and 700 nm; however, not all wavelengths are equally efficient. Red light (600 to 700 nm) is 25 to 35% more efficient than blue light (400 to 500 nm) and 5 to 30% more efficient than green light (500 to 600 nm). Although blue light is less efficient than red light, it has been shown to be necessary for normal plant development in all tested crop species. The mixture of pigments in plant leaves allows them to absorb all colors of light. Both red and blue light are absorbed primarily in the upper leaf. Green light penetrates deep into the lower leaf and transmits to leaf layers below the upper leaf canopy. Accordingly, once the upper canopy is saturated with red and blue light, supplemental green light is beneficial in increasing whole plant photosynthesis. Although the effect of spectral quality on single leaves is well characterized, the effect on whole plant growth and development is poorly understood. The narrow spectral output of LEDs makes them particularly effective for photobiological studies. From our initial studies with radish, soybean, and wheat, we determined that blue light levels can be used to better predict plant development than red:far-red light ratios. We also found that plants require at least 80 μmol of blue photons m-2 s-1 in order to develop normally. Further studies are currently being conducted to determine the optimal ratio of red and green light for maximizing whole plant photosynthesis in lettuce and radish.
Kat Combs, Utah State University Plants, Soils, and Climate Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.) is a commonly used turfgrass species with many varieties being sold around the world. However, those varieties are very difficult to tell apart morphologically. Our objective was to use genetic markers (primers) to identify varieties, even if they are visually similar. This is valuable to the turfgrass industry for plant variety protection. We also wanted to use this data to explore the apomictic tendency (clonal reproduction) of the varieties. We collected leaf tissue from 24 Kentucky bluegrass varieties, extracted DNA, and sequenced portions using 29 EST and 21 genomic primers. This data was used to determine genetic relationships using a neighbor-joining dendrogram. Similarities of the genetic sequences from the varieties were estimated using the DICE coefficient. We found more polymorphisms in genomic primers than in EST primers with high variability between the varieties. Both types of primers were robust enough to distinguish varieties and that each variety was unique and genetically distinguishable. In addition, we discovered some varieties had large amounts of variation within a variety. This was unexpected due to the usual apomictic nature of the species. The markers resulting from our research will be available to the turfgrass industry.
Thomas Anderson, Utah State University Biology Pradimicin, a small molecule produced by the soil bacterium Actinomadura hibisica, is a promising candidate as a combined antifungal/antiviral therapeutic. It is active against a broad-spectrum of opportunistic, pathogenic fungi, interferes with the replication of influenza virus, and inhibits the reproduction of HIV-1. Toxicity and solubility problems have hindered past efforts to develop pradimicin as a therapeutic. Our research focuses on elucidating the bio-synthetic pathway of pradimicin in order to design and chemoenzymatically create pradimicin structural analogs with improved solubility and activity, and less toxicity. Several enzymes in pradimicin biosynthesis have been identified. We intend to characterize one of the key enzymes, PdmS, a putative glycosyltransferase, and to manipulate its gene to create novel, more efficacious pradimicin analogs. This project is funded for three years by the NIH NIAID (3 years). Methods: A gene knockout experiment was used to determine the role of PdmS in pradimicin production. Bio-synthetic precursors of pradimicin were subjected to bio-transformations in E. coli with recombinant genes for PdmS and another glycosyltransferase, OleD, to generate analogs with new sugar attachments. Analogs of pradimicin will be screened for bio-activity using standard microbroth dilution assay techniques. Confirmed results: The enzyme PdmS was identified and characterized as a glycosyltransferase. Expected results: newly created analogs of pradimicin exhibited minimal inhibitory concentrations of 10μg/mL against Candida albicans. Conclusion: Knockout of pdmS yielded the pradimicin aglycon, which confirmed the function of this glycosyltransferase and provides a start molecule for further structural modification to yield new analogs for bioactivity studies.
Fluorene as a Model Compound to Investigate Fire Induced Soil Water Repellency: A qualitative approach
Vance Almquist, Utah State University Plants, Soils, and Climate Fire induced soil water repellency has been characterized across a variety of soils and landscapes as being a cause of watershed degradation and surface water pollution. The repellency is due to the condensation of volatile polyaromatic hydrocarbons onto soil particles. Although repellency is known to reverse, in some locations the reversal takes months; whereas, in other locations it may take years. Little is known about the reversal mechanisms and how they lead to such a large range of reversal times. Access to untreated fired-affected sites, can be unpredictable and samples vary greatly from site to site. Therefore, a model compound that mimics fire-induced soil hydrophobicity is needed to be able to systematically investigate soil hydrophobilicty reversal mechanisms. Fluorene is a relatively non-toxic, hydrophobic polyaromatic hydrocarbon. The behavior of fluorene coated sand grains was investigated under laboratory conditions using quartz sand. Moreover, its fluorescent properties could be used to non-destructively monitor its degradation over time. In this context fluorene was studied as a possible model compound for the study of mechanisms involved in the reversal of fire-induced soil hydrophobilicy. The compound was subjected to conditions known to degrade or reverse water repellency including temperature, UV-light, and moisture content. Changes in hydrophobicity were monitored using the ethanol drop test and fluorescent imaging. Digital image processing techniques with the public domain software, ImageJ, produced by the National Institute of Health, were used to analyze the images and generate spatial maps of treatment effects on fluorene degradation and hyrdophobicity reversal. Our results indicate that the hydrophobic fluorene-coated sand layers were degraded by treatments such UV light known to reverse hydrophobicity in fire-affected soils, thus suggesting that fluorene may serve as a suitable model compound for producing hydrophobic layers on course grained material.
Thomas Wallace, University of Utah Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry The tumor suppressor p53 is mutated in more than 50% of all cancers, while the majority of remaining cancers contain mislocalized p53(1). p53 is part of a network of cellular pathways that regulate growth, cell cycle arrest, and clearly delineated apoptotic pathways(2). Restoring the function of p53 can be seen as an ultimate cancer treatment. Restoring p53 would activate an already existing cell pathway that prevents cells from becoming cancerous and cause cancer cells to go through apoptosis. Playing a role in tumor suppression has made p53 an attractive target for gene therapy. However, despite the potential of p53 as a powerful treatment, it is limited by the dominant-negative effect of dysfunctional mutant p53. This effect imposes one of the greatest limits on the effectiveness of a p53 based treatment. This project is focused on bypassing the dominant-negative effect of dysfunctional p53 over exogenous functional p53. The attempted solution was substitution of the p53 binding domain with a different but structurally analogous coiled-coil, based on a modified Breakpoint cluster region (Bcr) protein. By doing this, the dominant-negative effect of mutant p53 may be bypassed. The purpose of this project has been to synthesis and test rationally modified forms of p53 with modified Bcr coil that are introduced into cells via a plasmid to restore cellular p53 activity. In vivo cell tests have already shown the effectiveness of these constructs at causing higher rates of cell death in cancer cells and constructs are currently being refined to carry forward to xenograft model animal trails. The ultimate goal is to develop a treatment for human cancer patients where modified p53 will selectively cause apoptosis in cancer cells.
Shape Analysis of the Left Atrial Appendage to Assess Risk of Stroke in Patients with Atrial Fibrillation
Derek Chang, University of Utah Bioengineering Atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common cardiac arrhythmia, is a rapid, irregular heart beat arising from uncontrolled and asynchronized electrical activation in the atria. This disruption of the normal electrical signaling hinders the contraction of the heart, leading to decreased blood flow, possible clot (thrombus) formation, and an increased risk of stroke. The left atrial appendage (LAA) is a small muscular pouch of highly variable anatomy within the left atrium. The LAA plays a prominent role in thrombus formation in patients with AF because of decreased blood flow within this structure. Thus, we hypothesized that the shape of the left atrial appendage is different in AF patients with a documented history of stroke. We used statistical shape analysis to determine which LAA shape variations contribute to stroke based on a cohort of AF patients who had both MRI and CT scans and a documented history of stroke. We manually delineated the boundaries of the LAA from each patient’s CT and MRI scans to analyze the resulting LAA segmentations for shape variations across imaging modalities and history of stroke. The results showed that patients who have AF and a history of stroke have an LAA with a narrower insertion site into the left atrium and are larger in size. In contrast, patients who have AF, but no history of stroke, have an LAA with a wider insertion site, which are smaller in size. By isolating specific LAA shape variants indicative of an underlying risk of stroke, we can use this shape classification scheme to better tailor AF therapies to each individual patient.
Jacob Robinson, Brigham Young University Mechanical Engineering Figure skating is a competitive sport that requires athletes to practice up to 5 days a week year round performing 50 to 100 jumps per day. This results in high, repetitive impact forces on the skater’s body which may lead to overuse injuries. While the negative effects of figure skating are well documented, the cause of these injuries is still unclear because the complexity of artistic figure skating limits current instrumentation from accurately measuring impact forces. This project has sought to fill this void by developing a force measurement system that will allow the figure skater to perform their jumps without any hindrance while accurately measuring the magnitude of the impact forces in the vertical and horizontal directions. Using strain gauges attached to the stanchions of the ice skate combined with a data collection system that attaches to the bottom of the boot, we have developed a prototype that accurately measures the forces produced in the ice skate. This will lead to a fully developed ice skate measurement system which will be used by researchers to investigate the impact forces generated in figure skating jumps and landings.
Autumn Pando, Brigham Young University Mechanical Engineering The wrist is one of the most common sites for joint injury. Over two-thirds of 75,000 annual repetitive joint injuries occur at the wrist. Excessive or abnormal wrist forces are thought to be one of the main contributing factors, yet no characterization of normal wrist forces exists. The purpose of this research is to fill this lack by creating a systematic, quantitative characterization of wrist forces and torques experienced in daily life. This database will aid further research in developing better and more personalized treatments as well as improving design considerations for human-machine interfaces. Ten healthy subjects participated in the experiment. Subjects performed 25 activities representative of daily life (e.g. hygiene maintenance, food preparation, using technology). Electromyographic (EMG) sensors recorded wrist muscle activity and electromagnetic motion sensors recorded wrist kinematics. Each subject performed a calibration task prior to the experimental protocol to determine the proportionality constant between EMG activity and torque. Wrist force and torque were determined from EMG activity using a constant of proportionality (identified by calibration), muscle length, and muscle velocity. Co-contraction was computed from torque. Wrist muscle usage, forces, torque magnitudes, torque angles, and percentage of co-contraction at varying levels of contraction were characterized. The results indicate muscle use, forces, and torques are unevenly distributed.
Connor George, Utah State University Electrical and Computer Engineering The SABER instrument, aboard the TIMED satellite, measures optical data regarding parameters of the Earth’s atmosphere with respect to altitude. Approximately once per minute, SABER performs a limb-scan measurement on the Earth’s atmosphere from which altitude emission profiles of key atmospheric gasses, including hydroxyl at wavelengths of 1.6 μm and 2.0 μm, are derived. Most hydroxyl profiles within the SABER dataset contain a single peak in the airglow altitude profile centered near an altitude of 87 km, but a significant portion of the profiles display two or more local maxima. MATLAB code was written to analyze the geophysical and temporal global distribution of the multiple-peak profiles. Graphs have been created which display relationships between the percentage of multiple-peak profiles and the local time, the cardinal orientation of the SABER device, and the latitude and longitude at which the atmospheric profile was measured. Patterns have been observed in multiple-peak profile distribution with respect to these variables. Possible causes of the multiple-peak occurrences in the hydroxyl altitude profiles include waves, geometrical effects of the SABER instrument, and/or chemistry of the atmosphere. In addition to graphing software, analysis software was written which counts the number of peaks present in any given altitude profile, and which ascertained the percentage of profiles displaying multiple-peak characteristics. A small (<1%) portion of hydroxyl altitude profiles were found to have abnormal distributions due to erroneous or noisy data collected by SABER. Software has also been written to remove such exceptions from the dataset. Additional investigation into the relationship between multiple-peak occurrences and cardinal direction orientation of the SABER device is required in order to further identify the causes for multiple peak profiles. An investigation into seasonal patterns for multiple-peak profiles is to be conducted. As the dataset grows, exception software will be updated to identify invalid altitude profiles. Also, ozone has been found to have multiple-peak altitude profiles similar to those of hydroxyl, and studies complementary to those performed on hydroxyl altitude profiles will be performed on ozone.
Mitchell Dabling, Utah State University Civil and Environmental Engineering Water management and flood control are essential elements of civilization. Linear weirs (e.g. ogee crest, sharp crested, and broad crested weirs) are often used in irrigation channels or reservoir spillways to regulate the discharge and upstream water level during flood flows. As hydrologic data sets increase in size and accuracy, the highest probable maximum flood (PMF) discharge is becoming increasingly more accurate, and in many cases much larger than previous estimates. Because of this, an older weir may need to be rehabilitated to ensure it can pass the updated PMF discharge safely without upstream flooding. A nonlinear weir (e.g. labyrinth or piano key weir) can replace a linear weir in a channel or spillway to pass significantly more discharge without requiring increased channel width. The Utah Water Research Laboratory at Utah State University, with the help of Utah Mineral Lease Funds, has developed and published design data for multiple configurations of nonlinear weirs. In 2012, the Utah Division of Water Resources used this data to design a labyrinth-style nonlinear weir that will replace the spillway currently in use at Millsite Reservoir in Emery County. This rehabilitation project will significantly decrease the flooding potential of the surrounding area.
Kimberly Uchida, University of Utah Bioengineering and Oncological Sciences Programmed cell death 4 (PDCD4) loses its function as a tumor suppressor when co-expressed with a specific binding partner, protein arginine methyltransferase-5 (PRMT5). A better understanding of the regulation of PDCD4-PRMT5 interaction may lead to cancer therapies targeted at restoring the tumor suppressive function of PDCD4. Using Xenopus laevis (frog) eggs to generate extract trapped in either interphase or mitosis, we found that PDCD4-PRMT5 interaction is regulated by the cell cycle. Full-length PDCD4 bound PRMT5 more robustly in interphase than in mitosis. However, a truncated version of PDCD4, that retained the PRMT5 binding site, bound PRMT5 equally in interphase and mitosis. These results indicate that there may be a component of full-length PDCD4 that occludes the PRMT5 binding site in mitosis. Furthermore, we found that both full-length and the truncated PDCD4 are preferentially phosphorylated in mitosis, but preferentially methylated in interphase. From these results we speculate that phosphorylation of PDCD4 in mitosis allows PDCD4 to fold upon itself and effectively block the PRMT5 binding site. Additionally, phosphorylation may prevent methylation even when PRMT5 can bind PDCD4, explaining the lack of PDCD4 methylation in mitosis. Such an inhibitory mechanism may be useful in therapeutically restoring the tumor suppressive function of PDCD4. Future research will be aimed towards completing our understanding of PDCD4-PRMT5 interaction in the cell cycle, such as proving our model in human cells.
Toxin-Degrading Bacteria: Herbivorous Rodents May Provide a Source of Novel Microbes for Agricultural Herbivores
Ashley Stengel, University of Utah Biology Agricultural herbivores, such as cattle, often encounter plants containing toxins. One class of toxins, tannins, bind to proteins and inhibit digestive enzymes from acting to liberate nutrients. In this way, tannins prevent optimal absorption of nutrients. To overcome this challenge, some herbivores host bacteria with the ability to degrade tannins. Currently, there is a push to find novel microbes capable of aiding animals in detoxifying these compounds. Therefore, we aimed to isolate tannin-degrading bacteria from the desert woodrat (Neotoma lepida), a wild, herbivorous rodent that feeds largely on a tannin-rich shrub, creosote bush (Larrea tridentata). Woodrat feces were cultured on tannin-treated media, and bacteria capable of degrading tannins were further characterized with DNA sequencing. Results revealed that from 9 isolates, three species of tannin-degrading bacteria were present: Enterococcus faecalis, Bacillus subtilis, and Escherichia coli. Further characterization was performed through measurement of tannase activity. The activity of each isolate varied significantly between bacterial species as well as within a species. Ultimately, I hypothesize that these tannin-degrading bacteria facilitate the ingestion of tannin-rich plants by woodrats. Additionally, this research exemplifies how wild herbivores, such as the desert woodrat, provide an essential source of tannin-degrading microbes that could be introduced into domestic herbivores in order to improve agricultural practices.
Tyler Shimko, University of Utah Biology Differences in the genomes of organisms control an organism’s ability to deal with and adapt to environmental stresses. In this project, two strain isolates of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans were analyzed using high-throughput assays measuring growth and offspring production to determine the genes that confer a greater resistance to the herbicide paraquat. Paraquat acts by interfering with electron transport mechanisms within the cells of living organisms. This mechanism not only allows it to act as an effective herbicide, but also causes it to pose a considerable risk to the health of animals, including livestock and humans. Using statistical genetics, regions of the genome were identified that are likely responsible for differences in growth rate and fecundity observed in the two strain isolates when grown in paraquat. Near-isogenic lines and extra-chromosomal arrays were then created to isolate these portions of the genome in a control genetic background. This approach allowed us to be able to attribute any differences in the two traits to the genes contained within the intervals. After analyzing the body size data, representing the growth of the animals over 72 hours, we were able to draw a preliminary conclusion that an interval on chromosome V may have a small but significant effect on growth determination. As a result of this project, a specific interval was identified that may be responsible for a greater growth rate, three near-isogenic lines were created, and 34 extra-chromosomal arrays were generated. This work will be used in the future to identify the gene(s) responsible for the greater growth rate and fecundity observed in some animals exposed to the herbicide paraquat. These results will allow us to draw conclusions about the roles that these genes, and others like them, play in an organism’s ability to cope with environmental stresses.
Anindita Ravindran, University of Utah Exercise and Sport Science Obesity predisposes individuals with Type II Diabetes to cardiovascular complications such as impaired blood vessel function. Due to the elevation of free fatty acids (FFAs) in obese individuals, ceramide, a lipid metabolite, accumulates and might contribute to the inability of a blood vessel to constrict or relax appropriately. Vessel dysfunction is partly caused by the inability of the endothelium, the innermost protective lining of blood vessels, to synthesize and release nitric oxide (NO). Our data indicate that ceramide impairs endothelial NO synthase (eNOS), the enzyme that synthesizes NO. In order to study mechanisms by which ceramide might impair eNOS, it is important to measure cellular ceramide production in response to pharmacological and genetic manipulations. Previously we used P-32 radioactive assays to measure ceramide accumulation. However, the use of radioactivity is expensive, potentially hazardous, and waste disposal is an environmental concern. Therefore, I sought to import a less harmful, more cost effective, yet accurate technique of measuring ceramide production by immunofluorescence (IF). IF allows ceramide to be tagged with a primary antibody which can be detected by a secondary antibody conjugated with a fluorescent dye. I have observed that 250, 500, and 750 uM palmitate (pal) incubation for 3 h increases (p<0.05) endothelial cell ceramide accrual in a dose-dependent manner. Further, a FFA-independent method to alter ceramide accrual i.e., 3 h incubation of cells with N-oleoylethanolamine, also elevates (p<0.05) ceramide production. Importantly, I have shown that 500 uM palmitate-induced ceramide accrual can be prevented (p<0.05) by two structurally dissimilar inhibitors (10 uM myriocin, 1mM L-cycloserine) of the rate-limiting enzyme responsible for ceramide biosynthesis i.e., serine palmitoyl transferase (SPT). None of these inhibitors impairs cell viability. These data indicate that IF is an accurate and reproducible method whereby ceramide accrual can be quantified in endothelial cell systems.
Alexa Provancha, University of Utah Exercise and Sport Science Impaired endothelium-dependent vasodilation has been associated with various cardiovascular diseases, including heart failure, is linked to oxidative stress, and persists despite heart transplantation (HTx). PURPOSE: This study aimed to determine if changes in vascular function following HTx can be assessed using incremental handgrip (HG) exercises to induce nitric oxide-dependent vasodilation of the brachial artery. Furthermore, the efficacy of an acute oral antioxidant cocktail (AOC) to reduce oxidative stress and improve vascular function in this population will be assessed. METHODS: 31 HTx recipients (14 years post-HTx) and 10 healthy age-matched controls were given either and AOC (Vitamin C, E, and alpha-lipoic acid) or placebo (PL; randomized for the subjects’ two visits. Measurements of the brachial arterial blood velocity and vessel diameter were performed during three absolute workloads (4, 8, and 12 kg) of HG exercise using ultrasound Doppler. RESULTS: Maximal vasodilation during PL HG exercise was not different between the controls (8.2 ± 1.5%), and recent (< 3 years post) HTx group (8.5 ± 1.2%), but the 5-10 years post-HTx groups had a tendency to be lower (6.5 ± 1.9%). The > 14 years post-HTx group recipients (5.2 ± 1.9%) were significantly attenuated compared to both the controls and the recent (< 3 years post) HTx recipients. CONCLUSION: The study supports the use of HG exercise as an assessment of vascular function in a patient population with known cardiovascular risk. Additionally, these results suggest that vascular function is similar between controls and early HTx recipients but declines as time passes following surgery despite normalized cardiac function.