West Virginia Wesleyan College (WVWC) Biochemistry Professor, Dr. Bruce Anthony, is leading teams of undergraduate students in research related to brain cell development and regeneration. Through support from the Maier Foundation, the WV INBRE program and the WV Division of Science and Research Summer Undergraduate Research Experience program (SURE), five senior science students were awarded the opportunity to research the impact of strokes, Alzheimer’s disease and addiction recovery on the brain.
Brantley Hyre, senior molecular biology major from Elkins, WV; Laurel Lloyd senior biochemistry major from Sutton, WV; and Hannah Tenney, senior biochemistry major from Buckhannon, WV, are exploring how long it takes for brain cells in mice to redevelop after the exposure to opioids has been suspended. “While participating in this research I find myself more empathetic to victims of substance abuse,” Lloyd stated. “It has opened my eyes to the issues so many are facing.”
“Current rehabilitation programs are relatively short term, 21 or 28 days,” Dr. Anthony said. “After this short stay, individuals are expected to be able to change their life and be healthy. However, research is showing that the effects of addiction cause certain brain chemicals to be suppressed and this often leads to depression making full recovery a harder process.” Anthony continued. The students are studying how long the effects of these substances remain in the brain. “This data could help recovery practitioners develop improved recovery programs in the future – which support not only the withdrawal from the substance but time for the brain to heal and depressive symptoms to subside. In turn allowing a better chance for long-term success of individuals in recovery,” Anthony explained.
Cristal Epinosa, Wesleyan senior biochemistry major from Rock Cave, WV, is conducting research related to how a stroke might change the surrounding brain cells. This research model demonstrates cell losses and how stem cells might aid in the recovery process for stroke victims. “My brother suffered a stroke at birth,“ Espinosa said. ”I hope this research can influence public policy and decrease death rates.”
Caitlin Murphy, Wesleyan senior biochemistry major from Dailey, WV, is conducting research into Alzheimer’s disease. “I was inspired to work on this project because my grandmother has the disease,” Murphy said. “I hope an outcome of this research would be to identify drug properties that could slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.”
Research projects began during the spring and summer semesters of 2019 and the students will continue into the fall. “I want our undergraduate students to learn how to design experiments and analyze data in different ways, preparing them to become independent researchers ready for advanced education opportunities,” Anthony said.
Caption: From left to right: Caitlin Murphy, Hannah Tenney, Laurel Lloyd, Dr. Bruce Anthony, Cristal Espinosa, and Brant Hyre.