CURCA Funds Students’ Research in Pharmacology and Toxicology

Published January 27, 2012

UB’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (CURCA) has awarded funding to three students conducting research in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

Targeting Drugs to Myelinating Cells

Bansi Vedia, a senior majoring in biotechnology, is analyzing the effect drugs have on human oligodendrocyte progenitor differentiation and proliferation. She works with Fraser J. Sim, PhD, whose lab seeks to understand how human neural stem and oligodendrocyte progenitor cells develop into oligodendrocytes, specialized brain cells, and how oligodendrocytes generate myelin.

Myelin insulates the elements of the nervous system and is required for normal electrical transmission. The loss of that insulation, as happens in demyelinating diseases like multiple sclerosis, causes serious and debilitating consequences.

Sim’s lab has used whole genome approaches to study the molecular processes that regulate oligodendrocyte progenitor cells and identify novel drug targets for myelin repair. Vedia’s work represents the first step in testing whether the drugs the lab has identified can influence human neural stem and progenitor cell behavior.

Vedia has been a research assistant in Sim’s lab since 2010 and has previously won several research awards, including the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology’s Undergraduate Student Travel Award in 2011.

Investigating the Causes of Cardiac Arrhythmias

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Archis Bagati, a student in the combined BS/MS program in pharmacology and toxicology, is working with Satpal Singh, PhD, to study how certain drugs induce cardiac arrhythmias that can lead to sudden cardiac death.

His research focuses on determining how the drug Celebrex, an analgesic commonly prescribed for inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, alters the biophysical properties of a critical cardiac potassium ion channel called hERG. Bagati works with patch-clamp recordings, which permit him to measure the activity of ion channels in individual cells.

Because drug interactions with hERG are a major cause of cardiac arrhythmias, studying how Celebrex interacts with this ion channel may offer new insight into potentially life-threatening arrhythmias and also help refine the drug design and development process.

Exploring Drug Interactions

Martin Kozicki, a senior majoring in pharmacology and toxicology, is working with David E. Shubert, PhD, to research how a specific antibody can be used to detect a drug metabolizing enzyme, cytochrome P450 1b1/1b2.

Unexpected interactions between drugs, or between drugs and foods, can lead to adverse reactions and unnecessary hospitalizations. Many of these interactions result from the inhibition or induction of enzymes that metabolize drugs. The enzyme that Kozicki’s research focuses on belongs to the most prominent group of these, which includes more than 9,000 named sequences.

Kozicki uses immunohistochemistry, a process that infers an antigen’s presence in a tissue sample by detecting antibodies that bind to it or related proteins. This powerful technique detects proteins in their native state, permitting researchers to determine proteins precise intracellular locations, track their movement in neurons and locate cancer cells within normal tissue.

Kozicki has been performing undergraduate research under Shubert’s mentorship since summer, 2011. This work has been instrumental in his decision to pursue a PhD in pharmacology or pharmaceutical sciences.

$500 Awards Support Undergraduate Research

CURCA offers $500 awards to pay for supplies, conference fees or other related needs for undergraduate research and creative activities.

The center accepts applications for awards on a rolling basis throughout the year. For consideration, the student’s project must be advertised on the CURCA website. Research mentors working with undergraduates are encouraged to submit research opportunity postings online.