Medical Innovations

Recorded five-minute presentations for the Undergraduate Scholarly Showcase in Category C: Medical Innovations, Projects C-01 through C-06.

C-01: Comparison of Devices to Measure Lingual Strength and Skill

Karlie Wiles, Speech Language Hearing Sciences
Project Advisor: Brittany Krekeler
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The Iowa Oral Performance Instrument (IOPI®) and the TongueometerTM are used in conducting dysphagia therapy for tongue exercise. The IOPI has been available for multiple decades, has the most published data on normative values for lingual pressure measurements, and is considered a standard tool for dysphagia assessment and treatment. The Tongueometer is a newer device that offers a customizable application-based interface and is more cost-efficient. However, to use the IOPI published normative values for the Tongueometer in clinical practice, we must determine concurrent validity between the two devices.

The purpose of this study was to compare two tongue pressure measurement devices in healthy adults across the lifespan. We hypothesized that the IOPI and Tongueometer would have comparable measurements. We recruited participants via social media, word-of-mouth, flyers and throughout the community. Participants were screened for any history of swallowing impairments, or recent hospitalizations.

After informed consent, standard tongue measurements were taken from each device. The device to start was selected randomly for each participant. Measures of maximum isometric pressure, maximum isometric endurance and swallowing pressures were recorded.

Results showed that the TongueometerTM device registered lower measurements in comparison to the IOPI in maximum lingual strength in all tested measurements (p<0.001). We conclude that the IOPI will likely continue to be used for standard assessment measurements, but the efficiency in cost of the Tongueometer device makes this a potentially more accessible tool to provide biofeedback for patients at home doing lingual exercise as a part of their dysphagia therapy.

C-02: Developing a Method to Calibrate High Intensity Focused Ultrasounds Used in Therapeutics

Bemnet Deresse, Biochemistry
Project Advisor: Rupak Banerjee
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High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) is a cutting age technology used to treat tumor causing diseases such as protest cancer. HIFU offers a minimally invasive and selective treatment. HIFU ablates the tumer without the need to make any insisions. The focused ultrasound rises the tempretuer of the target tissue (tumer) to cause rapid thermal toxicity. The downside of HIFU treatment is that it causes thermal damage and toxicity to the surrounding health tissue. As such, it is important to induce HIFU treatment in a controlled manner. One way of controlling the effects of a HIFU treatment is by controlling the power we input into the target tissue. Thereby limiting the amount of collateral thermal damage to the surrounding healthy tissue. To know the power input into the tissue, the power output of the HIFU transducer used in the procedure must be known. Consequently, adequate and routine calibration of HIFU transducers is necessary for the safety and effectives of HIFU tissue ablation treatment. According to [Safety first: progress in calibrating high-intensity focused ultrasound treatments] &[ Measurement of ultrasonic power and electro-acoustic efficiency of high power transducers] There is currently no universally accepted method of HIFU calibration. As such the goal of this project is to exploring cheaper and faster ways of calibrating HIFU system is important as HIFU tissue abliation prosedures become more main stream.

C-03: Impulsive Mice: They're Just Like Us

Grace Hansen, Neuroscience and Music
Project Advisor: Marla Sunderman
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The frontal lobe of the brain is important for executive function, which includes behaviors like attention and impulsivity. Too much or too little activity in the frontal lobe disrupts executive function and may be important for disorders like ADHD and Bipolar disorder. The neurotransmitter dopamine influences activity levels in the frontal lobe and is involved in attention and impulsivity. Medications targeting dopamine function are not completely effective and cause unpleasant side effects. Because of this, it is necessary to find other ways to influence dopamine in the brain. One such molecule is called PDE1b. PDE1b is found in an area of the brain known as the striatum, which is responsible for attention and motivation. Here, PDE1b helps to maintain normal levels of dopamine, which may be helpful for attention and impulsivity. In order to study the effects of Pde1b on these behaviors of executive function, we deleted Pde1b from mice and tested their behavior on the 5-choice serial reaction time task. We chose this task because it tests impulsivity and attention in rodents and was modeled after a similar test of behaviors related to executive function in humans. We hypothesize that mice lacking PDE1b will show increased impulsivity and decreased attention compared to normal mice. These findings will help better understand the role of PDE1b on executive function while generating new targets for therapeutics.

C-04: Examining Drug Structures that Potentially Target a Process Hijacked by Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Claire Cunningham, Chemistry
Project Advisor: Daniel Starczynowski
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Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. In Leukemia, stem cells are unable to differentiate into subsets of blood cells necessary for our bodies to function. These immature cells can hijack biological processes to grow uncontrollably. The purpose of this research was to examine a potential therapeutic target of AML - a ubiquitin conjugating enzyme, UBE2N. UBE2N is involved in a biological process called ubiquitination, which regulates various immune responses and signaling pathways. Through previous studies, inhibition of UBE2N resulted in cell death of leukemic cells, while sparing normal blood cells. Herein, we examined compounds similar in structure to those that were shown to inhibit UBE2N with the goal of identifying more drug-like compounds. The outcome of this work will set the foundation for testing UBE2N inhibitors in patients with AML.

C-05: Transcriptional Regulation of Fibroblasts in Post-Natal Lung Development

Thomas Taylor, Biological Sciences
Project Advisor: Anne-Karina Perl
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Fibroblasts provide functional cues and structure for lung epithelial/surface-level cells during lung development and homeostasis/equilibrium. Their dysfunction in development can lead to diseases such as bronchopulmonary dysplasia in newborns, which results in simplified alveoli, or air sacs, within the lung. Mesenchyme homeobox 2 (MEOX2) is a transcription factor protein and recently-recognized identifier of a unique lung fibroblast cell population. Among other functions, it regulates genes related to cell division and cell migration, but its role during postnatal lung development is largely undescribed. We hypothesized that loss of Meox2 would affect the activity of lung fibroblasts and impair postnatal alveolarization. In order to study the postnatal effect of Meox2, mice were treated on PN1 (postnatal day one) to “knockout” or prevent Meox2’s utilization during the later stages of mouse lung development. Quantification of lung morphology (morphometrics) found the width of airspaces to be significantly increased in the knockout mice at PN7 and that the effect remains at PN28. Immunofluorescence revealed a general reduction of fibroblasts in Meox2 knockout mice at both timepoints. An increase in contractile fibroblasts over lipid-containing fibroblasts was also identified at PN7. The highly simplified morphology and altered fibroblast populations strongly indicate that Meox2 is important for contractile fibroblast function and formation of alveolar septae. The outcome of more PN28 and cell culture experiments will further determine long-term effects of lacking Meox2, discover ways to recover from its dysfunction, slightly increase our overall understanding of the lung, and greatly increase our knowledge of Meox2’s role within it.

C-06: Comparing the Reaction Rates of Reactive Oxygen Species with Different Molecules by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance

Jose Pinto, Chemistry
Project Advisor: Peng Zhang
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Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a revolutionairy method with the ability to target and kill cancers and harmful bacteria. Within PDT, various types of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) are generated, crucial in the cancer killing process. Therefore, quantification and differentiation of ROS has garnered increased interest. Recently, there has been a new method proposed to differentiate and quantify ROS by 19F NMR. Using fluorine-containing molecules with unique chemical reactivity, different ROS, namely singlet oxygen and superoxide radical anion, generated by photosensitizers can be differentiated and quantified at the same time. This work aims to expand on this method by testing numerous more fluorine-containing molecules under the same method in order to measure and compare their rate of reactions. This knowledge will help further understanding of the method and help clarify under what chemical conditions does the reaction take place. Essentially looking at which classes of molecules are reactive with the ROS. This work can then be relevant to further ROS studies.