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Postbac Seminar Series: December 13, 2018

Series: Science Skills; Speaking

Dec 13, 2018

This event is recommended for: Postbacs.

Science isn't complete until the results have been shared with others, and talking about your results is one of the important ways of making them public. The Postbac Seminar Series provides a unique opportunity for two Postbacs each month to present their research to a diverse audience of their peers.  The atmosphere is relatively informal and non-threatening.  The series allows Postbacs who attend to learn about the different types of biomedical research being conducted at the NIH while meeting other postbacs.  Read more about the seminar series.

This month's presenters are:

Name: Taylor L. McNeely


Research Title: Effect of antioxidant treatment on the function and reconstitution of hematopoietic stem cells

Research Summary: As hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) in the bone marrow age, their reconstitution capacity becomes impaired and they display a differentiation bias toward myeloid lineage. Previous results have demonstrated a connection between these age-associated defects and increased levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS). High ROS leads to HSC exhaustion, and treatment in vivo with the antioxidant n-acetyl cysteine (NAC) could rescue this phenotype. In our study, we examine accumulation of oxidative damage in aged HSCs and investigate if NAC exposure in old mice attenuates this build-up. We also employ murine transplantation experiments to determine if NAC improves the reconstitution potential and decreases myeloid lineage bias in aged donor HSCs. Our preliminary results suggest a protective role for NAC, but further investigation in vitro is necessary.

Bio: Taylor received his B.A. in Biology from Bucknell University in 2017. After graduation, he joined Dr. Isabel Beerman’s lab at the NIA where he conducts research on the aging of hematopoietic stem cells. He is fascinated by the aging phenomenon and applying to PhD programs in Biomedical Science for Fall 2019.


Name: Sonia Bhala


Research Title: Neurologic and psychiatric consequences of very short telomeres

Research Summary: Dyskeratosis Congenita (DC) is a cancer-prone inherited bone marrow failure syndrome caused by germline mutations in telomere biology genes. Developmental delay and brain anomalies are reported in patients with DC but this is the first time that they have been systematically studied. I utilized brain MRI and clinical evaluation data to evaluate genotype-phenotype correlations among patients in the NCI DC clinic cohort. Structural brain abnormalities, developmental delay, and psychomotor abnormalities are common in DC, particularly in children with extremely short telomeres. Comprehensive neuropsychological assessments are recommended. Future studies need to address the underlying biology and functional significance of these findings.

Bio: Sonia received her B.S. in Neuroscience from Lafayette College in 2017. She also works in conjunction with the NIH Academy Health Disparities Program and Team Telomere, a non-profit patient-advocacy group, to increase the accessibility of health information regarding rare disease management. She works jointly with the Clinical Genetics and Biostatistics Branches in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at NCI-Shady Grove. Her research interests include neuroepidemiology and telomere biology disorders. She will begin medical school in August.


Name: Julia Swan


Research Title: The influence of alcohol dependence and comorbid psychopathology on delay discounting

Research Summary: Alcohol use disorder (AUD) has been correlated with greater discounting of delayed monetary rewards, but the relationship between AUD and delay discounting has been unclear. We examined whether comorbid psychiatric disorders affected the relationship and whether more severe AUD was associated with greater discounting. In a cross-sectional study of 793 adults, subjects completed a delay discounting task and were split into four groups by diagnosis: current AUD with psychiatric comorbidities (N = 226), current AUD without psychiatric comorbidities (N = 203), past AUD (N = 69), and healthy controls (N = 295). We found that individuals with current AUD discounted at significantly greater rates than healthy controls and those with past AUD. Comorbid psychiatric diagnoses were not associated with greater discounting, and there was not a continuous relationship between AUD severity and discounting. Our findings suggest that steeper delay discounting may have a more limited effect on human alcohol use than previously supposed.

Bio: Julia received her B.A. in Psychology and English from the University of Michigan in 2017. She is working with Dr. Vijay Ramchandani at the NIAAA examining pharmacological effects of alcohol and risk factors of alcohol use disorder. She plans to pursue her doctoral degree in the future.