Science & Tech Editor
Jayde Hooven, a senior honors student, defended her thesis Wednesday. The biology major with minors in biochemistry and Spanish and a concentration in nutrition studies defended her honors thesis, “Actin Filament Associated Protein 1 is a Novel Regulator of Glucose and Lipid Metabolism.”
Hooven began looking for research opportunities in January 2014, and she had a great interest in studying endocrinology and metabolism as a research area. Specifically, Hooven wanted to conduct research on obesity. After looking for professors to mentor her at The University, Hooven, following a suggestion from Gary Kwiecinski, Ph.D., a professor at The University, turned to The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC) in Scranton, where she found instructive principal investigators whose interests aligned with hers.
Hooven began work with the husband and wife pair Jess Cunnick, Ph.D., and Youngjin Cho, Ph.D. of TCMC. The two researchers come from backgrounds in biochemistry and immunology, and their research focuses on mice that are knocked out for a protein associated with cytoskeleton formation and as an adaptor for Src kinases. The cytoskeleton is a network of molecules in the cell responsible for maintaining shape, allowing for intracellular transport and physical movement of cells. Meanwhile, Src Kinases phosphorylate tyrosine residues in cytosolic and nuclear proteins to change their activity.
Using an in vivo model, the work began with preliminary studies to look into differences in weight, glucose tolerance and insulin resistance in mice fed a regular diet. Promising results led to further trials using more advanced techniques.
“The knockout mice had statistically less weight gain, better glucose tolerance and enhanced insulin sensitivity,” said Hooven.
In addition, histological analysis revealed that the knockout mice had smaller adipocytes, and using histological staining, Hooven and her mentors compared rates of adipogenesis. Notably, the knockout mice had less triglyceride accumulation in livers. Following these results, Hooven focused her research to run the same trials again, but also with a set of mice fed 60 percent fat intake diets.
Hooven used her research with her mentors to complete an honors thesis, and Cunnick and Cho were the primary readers of the undergraduate milestone, which she successfully defended Wednesday.
Hooven will present her research results at the Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association in June held in Boston, Massachusetts. After graduation, Hooven intends to matriculate as a medical student this fall at Penn State Hershey College of Medicine. As a professional, Hooven would like to specialize in pediatric endocrinology, a field very well suited to her research experience.
“Research in general has bolstered my path of ensuring my intentions to go into clinical medicine and expanded my horizons beyond the classroom to apply common techniques like Western Blots, PCR and ELISA to make practical differences,” Hooven said.