Jurkat’s Bizarre Adventure: Episode 1

Hi friends! I’m Annemarie Nguyen and I’m currently a junior, double majoring in Neuroscience and Psychology, minor in Chemistry, and Certificate in Conceptual Foundations of Medicine. I conduct research under the mentorship of Dr. Wei Du in the field of hematology and oncology at the Hillman Cancer Center. 

For brief context, hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) function is necessary in order to sustain blood production within the body. Specifically, normal functioning HSC are able to self-renew and maintain differentiation over time even as we age in order to keep the hematopoietic system in homeostasis as the blood within our body is essential for human functioning. When HSC can no longer function, this renders the body susceptible to malignancies such as Fanconi Anemia (FA). 

The Du Lab focuses on investigating the pathophysiology of hematologic diseases like FA which can lead to bone marrow (BM) failure and leukemia. FA associated diseases are due to the mutations in the FANCA, FANCC, and/or FANCG gene which alters the FA pathway. However, the exact role of the pathway in regulating HSC regulation under stressors is unknown. Through the understanding of these diseases, we can develop new therapeutic approaches that compensate for the mutations. Furthermore, being able to research more potential treatment options will overall contribute to higher survival rates and possibly make expensive treatment options more accessible, thus saving thousands of lives.

Specifically, this is where my project will come into play as it includes treating the leukemia cell line, Jurkat T-Acute T cell leukemia cells (Jurkat T-ALL) with two compounds the lab obtained from the School of Pharmacy, ID4-106 and XIE-25 (FB). My goal is to see whether the compounds will induce apoptosis in the leukemia cells, promote cell differentiation, and affect cell colony formation. Through involvement with this project and with CURF, I hope to foster my intellectual curiosity and establish skills important to my future endeavors in healthcare. As an advocate for health equity, particularly where health disparities and illiteracies are prominent, I seek to have a more profound understanding on how research can impact various communities where treatment is less accessible to marginalized groups.

If you don’t see me doing my work and ingesting copious amounts of caffeine, you’ll catch me exploring the city of Pittsburgh and going to new cafes and restaurants with my friends. There’s actually a plethora of hidden gems in the city. Lawrenceville is a great place to start! Otherwise, if I’m feeling like a homebody that day, I find comfort in trying new baking recipes, watching anime (anyone get the title reference?), and drawing.