Students of the MSRC

Dr. Washington's Lab


Name: Liz Hernandez Matias

Institution: University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras Campus

Program: PhD Candidate, Biology program

Project Title: Use of CRISPR-CAS9 laboratory experience to increase students academic knowledge, auto-conception and simultaneously advance scientific knowledge.

Description: Calreticulin (CALR) protein is involved in many cell functions, including the cell surface expression of MHC class I (MHCI) peptides. It is known that C and P-domain of CALR are responsible of MHCI expression into the surface, but which specific amino acids (s) are responsible for this expression is still not known. For this reason, my research project will be focused on (Aim 1) create model cell lines using CRISPR- Cas9 technique to identify the specific amino acids in the protein Calreticulin (CALR) responsible for the surface expression of MHCI. Furthermore, I will incorporate an educational research component that (Aim 2) will evaluate if the use of CRISPR-Cas9 technique as a laboratory experience could increase students’ auto-conception, academic knowledge development, and perception of science.

Name: Natalia Calzada Jorge

Institution: University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus

Program: Undergraduate, Cellular Molecular Biology UPR

Project Title: The use of Ferrocene-Estradiol as Breast Cancer Treatment

Description: Transition metals such as cisplatin, are effective at killing certain types of cancer cells. This drug can crosslink DNA, affecting DNA synthesis and ultimately leading to cell apoptosis or necrosis. However, cisplatin can affect DNA synthesis of cancer cells as well as healthy cells because of its poor selectivity. To overcome cisplatin’s poor selectivity, this research attempts to identify if other transitional metals compounds such as ferrocene can induce mortality on breast cancer cells without affecting healthy cells. In order to confer selectivity to ferrocene, the hormone estradiol, which is present in high concentrations in breast cancer, has been ligated to ferrocene. To date, this new compound, ferrocene-estradiol (FES) has shown to induce mortality of MDA-231 breast cancer cell line and when comparing it to ferrocene it was found to be more effective. Further on, we carried out cell cycle experiments to determine at what stage of the cell cycle FE induced mortality in the MDA-231 cells.Results show might be an indicator of a better and more effective treatment when dealing with breast cancer.

Name: Adriana Rivera Dompenciel

Institution: University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras Campus

Program: Masters Candidate, Biology Program

Project Title: The Role of TLT-1 in Atherosclerosis

Description: Platelets are known to directly participate in the development of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis (ATH) is a cardiovascular disease with extensive reach and socioeconomical impact that involves the deposition of fat, sustained inflammation, and the formation of platelet-leukocyte aggregates along blood vessel walls. TLT-1 is a platelet-derived molecule stored in resting platelet α-granules, yet quickly translocates to the surface upon stimulation by an agonist. TLT-1 has an important role in activated platelet-endothelium and platelet-platelet adhesion, and new evidence suggests it interacts with certain leukocytes. Our lab has developed a double knockout (DKO) mouse model by crossing apolipoprotein E (apoE)-null mice with our TLT-1-null mice on a C57Bl/6 background. Preliminary data show a difference in early-stage atherosclerotic lesions between our DKO and apoE-null mice on a high fat diet. Based on these findings I will (1) evaluate whether immunosuppression plays a role in this difference, (2) compare the incidence of first-responding leukocytes in the atherosclerotic lesions between the two mouse models, and (3) assess the therapeutic potential of TLT-1 antibodies in an atherosclerotic model.

Name: Jessica Morales-Ortíz

Institution: University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras Campus

Program: PhD Candidate/ Biology Program

Project Title: The evaluation of TLT-1 as treatment for ALI/ARDS

Description: Acute Lung injury especially acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) have been identified as life threatening conditions associated with significant mortality rate. Despite advances in the past decades in the knowledge on lung diseases, ARDS continues to claim the lives of more than 40% of its victims. Blood platelets, neutrophils and endothelial cells have been identified as the key components in the progression of ALI/ARDS. The current paradigm of platelets intents to uncover the molecular mechanisms that make these cells major orchestrators of inflammation. Previous reports have demonstrated that the absence of platelets leads to increase endothelial damage, aberrant neutrophil function and hemorrhage during inflammation. Moreover, these effects have been shown to be controlled by the release of platelet granules during activation. To date, the identity of the platelet granule molecule or molecules involved in this remains to be elucidated representing gab in our knowledge. Accordingly, this study seeks to identify key platelet components that modulate systemic response during inflammation through the modulation of neutrophil-endothelial cell crosstalk and mechanisms involved. To dissect that question we will evaluate a platelet granule product known as TLT-1 in the mediation of the signaling mechanisms that modulates neutrophil -endothelial cell cross-talk during inflammation.


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