CDC studies have shown an approximate 2.8 million new cases of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) in the US every year. Furthermore, 5.3 million Americans (2% of the general population) live with chronic TBI-related disabilities (like epilepsy, fatigue, and cog/behavioral dysfunctions). My project investigates recombinant human (rh) – IL- 7 as a post-acute neuro-reparative treatment for TBIs and aims to identify its neuroprotective effects. My project will use preserved brains (taken from mice that were studied by the Wagner Lab) and analyze them at a cellular level. This will be done by performing histology – field of microscopic anatomy that studies the protein levels in biological tissues. I will be analyzing brain tissue of mice which have undergone simulated traumatic brain injuries and looking for changes in CNS neural structure and molecules.
The goal is to find a relationship between molecular and cellular changes in mice brain tissue and correlate these changes to previously found behavioral changes of the same mice post-injury. Previously conducted studies in the Wagner Lab have found IL7 to improve behavioral and cognitive deficits caused by TBI’s such as learning and memory. Therefore, I plan to study the hippocampus brain region (since this region is responsible for learning and memory skills) and identify reduced CNS inflammation and neuron damage relative to other brain regions.
I first joined the Wagner research lab at the Safar Center for Resuscitation Research in Rango’s Research Center with the goal of pursuing an independent project to gain exposure to scientific inquiry. I have strong mentorship with a research scientist, Dr. Ashley Russell, and a post-bac, Tyler Shick. Dr. Russell has a decade of experience with these methods and studying TBI; hence, her expertise will provide strong supervision on a day-to-day basis in conjunction with my PI – Dr. Amy Wagner.
Post-graduation interests include pursuing studies in medicine. Pitt’s strong medical research environment was one of the main reasons for my commitment to this university. I see this independent project as a valuable experience needed to pursue graduate research programs and as a stepping-stone for taking on larger roles and commitments within the Wagner Lab. I hope to gain experience not only in technical research skills but also accessory research skills such as writing science papers and presenting scientific findings.