A Computational Model of Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (Update 1)

Today marks the start of my third week of on-campus research, so I wanted to provide an update about what I have accomplished so far. I have been working in Professor Coleman’s computational modeling lab, using the computer program Cell Designer to model the chemical reactions and pathways of neurodegenerative diseases. My focus is on Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML), a relatively rare yet fatal opportunistic disease that can affect HIV/AIDS patients as well as immunosuppressed Multiple Sclerosis and Crohn’s Disease patients who are on certain medications.

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Milkweed Connectedness Update 1:

My original plan was to use common Milkweed as a study system to understand the impact of clonality and group survival. By intentionally adding a pathogen, such as an herbicide, the spread of the negative effects can be witnessed in a clonally connected plant. The goal of this experiment is to see how far the pathogens travel in a patch, how long it takes for other plants to die, and if there is any preferential sharing. For instance, sometimes younger plants are favored in sharing. Herbicide will be used as a proxy for connectedness and physiological integration. 

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Defrosting, Detours, and a Debrief on Evolution

Last week was my first week of summer research. I was actually very excited to come back to campus. Relaxing at home is wonderful and much needed after finals, but with all the time in the world on my hands I started to get a little antsy. At the end of the semester, I paused my experiment by storing my yeast populations in glycerol and freezing them. Freezing the yeast puts them in a dormant state. When I returned for the summer, I knew I would be able to start exactly where I left off. For the first couple of days, all I did was prepare myself to start evolving again by getting all my equipment ready. I grow the yeast in glass tubes filled with evolution medium, basically sugar water. I spent a good portion of Monday autoclaving (sterilizing) and washing old tubes, making evolution medium and filling up clean tubes with it. At the beginning of last week, all but one of the autoclaves in the ISC was broken, so it was quite an adventure having to go back and forth to the third floor to get all my work done.

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