Gaser Ahmed ’17
Major: Biology
“Analysis of the Effects of Gluten Proteins and Low-Gliadin Wheat Products on Celiac Disease in NOD-DQ8 Mice” Celiac disease (CD) is an autoimmune disorder triggered by the ingestion of gliadin, a wheat gluten protein. Gluten is composed of gliadin and glutenin. According to Mayo Clinic data, 1% of adults in the U.S. have CD. Although there are medications that can suppress the symptoms, there are no cures for CD and a strict gluten-free diet is the only resort. Gliadin is the causal agent that triggers the immune response. The down-regulation of gliadins in wheat by RNAi (interference) provides low gliadin products, which may offer several more options for CD patients. This study was performed to determine the effects of gluten, gliadin, glutenin, and the low-gliadin products on the progression of CD plus ascertain if there is an intake threshold. The transgenic mouse model, NOD-DQ8, was utilized. Mice were exposed to different amounts of gluten, gliadin, and low-gliadin products by oral gavage. Blood samples were collected every two weeks from the tails, and the tissue transglutaminase tTG-IgA enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was performed on the samples. Biopsies of the small intestine were collected for histological analysis of crypts, villi abnormalities, and the count of intraepithelial lymphocytes. Results of the study will provide further information about the immunotoxicity of gliadin, glutenin, and the safety of consumption of low-gliadin products, which may set the stage for application toward humans.

Advisers: M. Dana Harriger and Brad Engle
Recipient of the Wilson College Organic Chemistry Award and the E. Grace White Summer Scholarship

Ahmed Alshahrani ’18
Major: Undeclared
“An Epidemiological Modeling Approach to Study the Correlation between Dromedary Camels, Camelus Dromedarius and MERS-CoV”
The Middle Eastern Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a coronavirus that emerged in Saudi Arabia in 2012, and has spread to 27 countries around the world. The largest outbreaks, approximately 80% of reported cases (1269), have occurred in Saudi Arabia. Like other coronaviruses, MERS-CoV affects the upper respiratory tract causing cough, fever, or breathing difficulties. In some studies, dromedary camels have been indicated as potential hosts for the virus, with zoonotic transmission (animal to human) occurring. Aerosol transmission (human to human) has also been suggested to occur. To study the transmission, an SRI model was created to study the correlation between several risk factors (age, sex, population density, co-morbidity, contact to dromedary camels, exposure to infected cases, consumption of raw camel’s milk), and the transmission of MERS-CoV. The data for all 1269 reported MERS cases in Saudi Arabia were collected from the World Health Organization (WHO) and a follow up of the cases was conducted with Saudi Ministry of Health and Saudi International Health Regulations (IHR). Generalized linear models were used to evaluate which potential risk factors or combination of factors best explained the observed transmission rate. The study aims to identify which risk factor or combination of risk factors is driving the transmission rate of MERS-CoV. Results from this study can be used to control or minimize the spread of the virus, and to avoid future outbreaks of MERS-CoV.

Advisers: Christine Proctor and M. Dana Harriger

Tracy Dile ’18
Major: Undeclared
“Effects of Apiary Practices on Colony Collapse Disorder in the European Honey Bee, Apis mellifera”
Nearly 90% of all flowering species of plants need help from animal pollinators for reproduction. Apis mellifera, or the European honey bee, is the most utilized pollinator in commercial crop production, responsible for 80% of commercial crop pollination. Their estimated agricultural economic contribution via assisted fertilization worldwide is greater than $200 billion annually. Without the service of honey bees, manual pollination by humans would be very costly, and have a detrimental economic impact to agriculture. Large populations of adult bees are disappearing, leaving behind stores of honey, brood, and most surprisingly, their queen. Named Colony Collapse Disorder in 2006, researchers have yet to determine a cause for this phenomenon. Theories have included cell phone towers, bacterial and viral diseases, as well as neonicotinoid pesticides, yet none of these theories individually have yielded a positive correlation. This study analyzed USDA colony loss data from commercial apiaries across the United States from January 2015 to March 2016. Commercial apiaries were defined as operations with 5 or more colonies. Generalized linear models were used to assess what factor or combination of factors best explained percent colony loss in 2015. Factors analyzed included: apiary type (honey production vs. pollination services), queen replacement, parasite infestation, bacterial and fungal infections, pesticide exposure, extreme weather, monthly temperatures, and hive destruction. The data from this study took a multi-impact approach and is a crucial first step in focusing future research investigating CCD.

Advisers: Andrea Nagy and Christine Proctor
Recipient of the John D. Rose Award in Environmental Studies

Anna Harutyunyan ’17
Major: Biology
“Synthesis and Effects of Fe-AZT and Pd-AZT on Viability of Human Hepatocytes and Hepatocellular Carcinoma Cells”
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fifth most common cancer and third most common cause of cancer mortality around the world. HCC is difficult to treat due to early metastasis and progression, therefore developing and testing new anticancer agents that target HCC cells is critical. Several studies have demonstrated that azidothymidine (AZT) has antitumor activity and induces apoptosis in malignant cells. AZT and other thymidine derivatives are phosphorylated intracellularly and are integrated into the cell’s DNA, which terminates the phosphate-sugar backbone, thus damaging the DNA and inducing apoptosis. An organometallic complex of platinum (Pt) AZT has previously demonstrated to be more effective in tumor suppression than pure AZT. Several organometallic complexes of AZT have been synthesized and shown to have antimicrobial activity; however, their anticancer properties were not tested. In this study, an attempt was made to synthesize organometallic complexes of AZT with divalent palladium (Pd2+) and trivalent iron (Fe3+). The structure and mass to charge ratio of Fe-AZT complex were confirmed by IR spectroscopy and mass spectrometry. The optimal conditions of Pd-AZT complexation are being determined. The apoptosis-inducing ability of the Fe-AZT is being assessed and compared to that of AZT by treating HCC cells (HepG2) and normal human hepatocytes (THLE-2) with several concentrations of Fe-AZT and AZT. The viability of both cell lines is being quantified by 3-(4,5-Dimethylthiazol-2- Yl)-2,5-Diphenyltetrazolium Bromide (MTT) assay. The efficacy of both complexes in inducing apoptosis will be compared by two-way ANOVA and Tukey’s post-hoc test. Due to higher thymidine turnover in malignant cells, it is anticipated that HepG2 cell line will be more sensitive to Fe-AZT toxicity than THLE-2 cell line.

Advisers: M. Dana Harriger and Deborah Austin
Recipient of the Margaret Criswell Disert Honors Scholarship and the E. Grace White Summer Scholarship

Vanessa Lybarger ’17
Major: Biology
“Evaluation of Factors that Increase the Load of Pathogenic E. coli in the Conococheague, a Freshwater Creek in Franklin County, Pennsylvania”
Escherichia coli, naturally occurring bacteria in the intestinal tract of humans and animals, are often introduced into the environment and waterways through fecal material. Although most strains of E.coli are non-pathogenic, when present, pathogenic strains can inflict severe health effects. Different types of environments affect the ability of E. coli to reach and survive in waterways. Once there, they may infect humans through irrigation of food crops and recreation. Monitoring streams for the amount of E. coli, while also recoding surrounding land use is important for identifying factors that increase the risk of pathogenic E. coli in waterways. This study aims to identify what factors may increase the contamination risk of pathogenic E. coli in the Conococheague creek. Contamination is defined by the EPA as exceeding a threshold of 126 CFU/100 ml. Water samples were collected weekly at five predetermined USDA research sites, each within different land uses. Samples were membrane filtered, filter placed onto E. coli selective media, and incubated to determine colony counts. To assess potential risk factors, a variety of environmental indicators were collected. Animal input, streambank integrity, surrounding land use, and weather factors were all examined. Animal input was monitored using trail cameras and track beds, streambanks were monitored using an established USDA habitat assessment rubric. Surrounding and upstream land use for each site was determined using USDA land use maps in a geographic information system. Lastly, weather stations, including rain gauges recorded weather events. A regression analysis was used to determine which factors have a greater influence on increasing the presence of E. coli. Results of this study will contribute to the understanding of factors that increase the prevalence of pathogenic E. coli is important in prevention of human infections.

Advisers: M. Dana Harriger and Christine Proctor
Recipient of the John D. Rose Award in Environmental Studies