Biomarkers for Brain Injury

Hello! I am Simone Mohite, an international student from Dubai, UAE. I was born in India, but I spent almost 12 years in the United Arab Emirates, before coming to Pitt for my undergrad studies. I am currently a Senior at Pitt, majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Chemistry, Theatre arts and French studies. I am applying for the Bachelor of Philosophy program by the end of the month. That means that I will end up graduating with a B.Phil. in Neuroscience instead of a B.Sc. After completing my undergrad studies, I plan on pursuing my PhD in Neuroscience. A few extracurriculars I have are: Vice president of NuRhoPsi, volunteering with the service sorority Gamma Sigma Sigma, I make podcasts and Instagram posts for Simply Neuroscience, Pitt Honors college ambassador, and a BRAINterns Ambassador.

I joined Dr. Ed Dixon’s lab at the Rangos Research Center in my sophomore year and started out with behavioral tasks. This semester, I am going to be conducting experiments to see if BACE1 could be a biomarker for experimental Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). TBIs claim about 50,000 Americans yearly, and even more in places that do not have great medical infrastructure. Identification of TBIs is still very difficult considering that we must rely on imaging techniques like MRIs and CTs. To lessen our dependance on these machines, and to get a more accurate representation of what is going on in our brain, we can use biomarkers. A biomarker is a biological fluid – CSF, Blood, Plasma – that can be used to predict or prove the prevalence of disease in our bodies. A simple way to think of this is if a cell is damaged, it no longer has a protective cell membrane, and all its contents will spill out into the surrounding interstitial fluid. This fluid is cleared out from our body either by blood, plasma, or CSF (in case of the brain and spinal cord). Therefore, if subjected to a TBI, the protein levels in your brain change and proteins may be detected in your fluids.  

Over the summer of 2021, I got some very promising data that suggests a trend in BACE1 protein levels being elevated post experimental TBI. I am furthering this project this semester, with the help of the Chancellor’s undergraduate research fellowship. Right now, my research and academic goals are to learn more about how research is conducted and continue exploring more fields of neuroscience. The CURF helps me do this by letting me focus on my research and my classes. Lastly, I’m very excited to read more about the research everyone else is doing with this fellowship and network more!

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