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SURF: Announcements of Opportunity

Below are Announcements of Opportunity posted by Caltech faculty and JPL technical staff for the SURF program. Additional AOs for the Amgen Scholars program can be found here.

Specific GROWTH projects being offerred for summer 2019 can be found here.

Each AO indicates whether or not it is open to non-Caltech students. If an AO is NOT open to non-Caltech students, please DO NOT contact the mentor.

Announcements of Opportunity are posted as they are received. Please check back regularly for new AO submissions! Remember: This is just one way that you can go about identifying a suitable project and/or mentor.

Announcements for external summer programs are listed here.

Students pursuing opportunities at JPL must be
U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents.

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Project:  Investigating the impact of prebiotics on the progression of HD Investigating the impact of prebiotics on the progression of Huntington's disease
Disciplines:  Biology, Biotechnology
Mentor:  Ali Khoshnan, Senior Investigator, (BBE), khoshnan@caltech.edu, Phone: 6263951705
Background:  Huntington's disease (HD) is a slowly progressing late-onset neurodegenerative disorder caused by a CAG repeat expansion mutation in the huntingtin gene. Mutant huntingtin protein (mHTT) is amyloidogenic and assembles into neurotoxic fibrils with prion-like properties. Patients develop motor, cognitive and psychiatric symptoms. The age-at-onset correlates with the size of the CAG repeat expansion. Nevertheless, it is clear that there are multiple modifiers that determine not only when a patient will develop disease, but also how rapidly it progresses. Most attention has been paid to genetic modifiers, but emerging evidence suggests that environmental factors, including inflammation, also influence the pathogenesis of HD. Recent studies demonstrate that the GI tract and its resident microbes (termed microbiota, and their collective genomes as microbiome) have a significant effect on an individual's physiology. For example, the microbiome influences neurodevelopment, neurotrophin and neurotransmitter production, and behavior. It has long been recognized that HD is not simply a disease of the CNS, and that it affects peripheral tissues such as the heart, skeletal muscle, and liver, and that metabolic dysregulation plays a key role. Therefore, the notion that HD-related changes in the homeostasis of intestinal microbiota may contribute to the pathogenesis of HD is worthy of investigation. Gut microbiota editing to promote health and delay disease is best achieved by prebiotics, which support the growth and diversity of beneficial bacteria. Antibiotics and colonization with distinct bacteria regulate the assembly of mHTT fibrils and motor behavior in HD fly models. Gut bacteria also alter the expression of neural genes in the brains of HD flies. Thus compounds, which promote the proliferation of healthy microbiota and reduce the aggregation of mHTT may have therapeutic properties.
Description:  The project involves using HD fly models to screen for prebiotics, which could reduce the aggregation and neurotoxicity of mHTT and ameliorate the HD-related symptoms. These studies may provide knowledge and innovative strategies to formulate safe nutraceuticals, which may delay the onset of symptoms in HD.
Student Requirements:  Experience with Drosophila handling, crossing, behavioral analysis.
Programs:  This AO can be done under the following programs:

  Program    Available To
       Amgen Scholars    Non-Caltech students only  
       SURF    Caltech students only 

Click on a program name for program info and application requirements.


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