Research Projects

Research Team: Amit Tal & Dion Silverman

Project: PLGA-Encapsulation of Epithalamin to Decrease Cellular Aging through Telomere Elongation

Short Summary: We aim to study the relative permeability of human telomerase, epithalamin, and PLGA-encapsulated epithalamin across human cell membranes. We aim to quantify percent encapsulation and trans-membrane transport. Finally, we will measure the effects of PLGA-encapsulated epithalamin on cell longevity.

Abstract: As eukaryotic cells replicate, the ends of the chromosome are not copied, leading to gradual shortening. Damage to the DNA causes dysregulation of processes and decreases in cellular function associated with ageing. This leads to decreased neuroendocrine and immune function and eventually system-wide organ failure and death. Chromosomes are capped with repetitive nucleotide sequences, telomeres, which protect the ends of the chromosomes from deterioration. Length of these telomeres is inversely correlated with lifespan (Gomes et al., 2011). After somewhere around 40–60 divisions, known as the Hayflick limit, mammalian cell cultures enter senescence (Hayflick, 1965). The enzyme telomerase is a reverse transcriptase which adds the six-nucleotide telomeric repeat sequence to the ends of DNA strands, allowing those cells to exceed the Hayflick limit and potentially become immortal. Epithalamin is a pineal polypeptide which induces expression of telomerase. We propose to encapsulate human telomerase (hTERT) and epithalamin in micro/nano-particles of poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA), a biocompatible copolymer approved for clinical use in humans by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), that has been used for drug delivery with great success. To assess the utility of our model, we will compare the membrane permeability of hTERT, epithalamin, and PLGA-encapsulated epthalamin using an artificial human membrane. Compared to other biocompatible polymers, PLGA is particularly useful because modifying the lactic-glycolic acid ratio allows tuning of the polymer’s mechanical and chemical properties, including hydrophilicity, crystallinity, and erosion time. We will then quantify the relative proportion of epithalamin encapsulated and transported across the membrane. Finally, we will measure the effect of PLGA-encapsulated epithalamin on hepatic, cardiac, and renal human culture cells. These cells were chosen as representative of organs that are specific biomarkers of aging.


Research Team: Sophia Nikravesh, Jasleen Sahota, Grant Weyers, Marshall Leung

Project: BLOOM Biosystems

Short Summary: Using a combination of Biochemistry, Engineering, and CS teams, we are working on a bioreactor to grow and cultivate algae so that we may extract lipids from the algae to convert into biofuel. We hope by doing so we can prove to our community that if college students are able to create a source of green energy, then we are all capable of using renewable resources and doing our part to maintain a greener, cleaner, environment.

Abstract: Bloom is a student research project in which we utilize a photobioreactor consisting of a tank and a light-receiving compartment for cultivating algae. Algae has a high photosynthetic rate and is easy to grow; hence, algae has the potential to be used for wastewater treatment and Carbon Dioxide fixation. Some of the ideas we have are: to use leftovers in cafeteria to serve as nutrients for algae, and to extract lipids from algae and convert them to useful organic compounds, such as biodegradable plastic. Overall, we run this project to explore the possibilities for using algae as an alternative energy source.