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Utah's Foremost Platform for Undergraduate Research Presentation
2014 Abstracts

Using breast cancer subtypes as a model for detecting cytoskeletal dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease

Ashley Calder, Utah Valley University

Life Sciences

An estimated 50-80% of dementia patients suffer from Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Currently there is no test to diagnose AD except post mortem. Recent papers indicate that AD affects the cytoskeleton and cellular structure through mutations that alter structural proteins, and that dysfunction of the cytoskeleton may play a pivotal role in AD and other neurodegenerative diseases. In particular, specific genetic components of AD affect microtubule and actin filaments that control endocytosis, exocytosis, the shape and size of the neuron, vesicular transport along neurites (dendrites and axons), and fibril formation. The goal of our research is to determine if breast cancer molecular subtypes can be used as a model for AD. Breast cancer is comprised of five molecular subtypes that contain different molecular structures depending on mutations specific to each subtype and the proteins being synthesized. These mutations and their expressed proteins change the characteristics of the cytoskeleton and resulting properties of the cell such as size, shape and stiffness. Both computer simulation and experiment have demonstrated that high-frequency ultrasound in the 10-100 MHz range is sensitive to these properties. For this study, ultrasonic tests were conducted on monolayer cell cultures of breast cancer cell lines of different subtypes. Ultrasonic waveforms were analyzed by transforming them into their corresponding spectra. The positions, widths, and shapes of the spectral peaks were compared and correlated to model results using a pattern recognition algorithm. Preliminary results indicate that cell stiffness and size can be determined from the measurements. Further analyses of these and additional data will determine if ultrasound is sufficiently sensitive to differentiate between the molecular subtypes of breast cancer. Results from these analyses, future studies with neuron cell cultures, and application of the results to the development of a minimally invasive, in vivo method for accurately diagnosing AD will be discussed.