RESEARCH EXPERIENCES FOR UNDERGRADUATES FROM RURAL AND TRIBAL COLLEGES
Investigator: Colin Combs, Ph.D., Professor
Location: Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of North Dakota
Project Title: Innate immune system influences on neuronal function
Description: This projectís goal is to determine the mechanisms by which immune cells in the periphery interact with brain resident immune cells to influence neuronal function normally as well as during aging and disease. Population and single cell transcriptomic analysis of brain resident immune cells, microglia, clearly demonstrate that these cells change their phenotype with age and disease. Although some of these changes are related to the microenvironment of the brain, the influence of peripheral-derived macrophages, lymphocytes, mast cells, etc. on the behavior of micorglia has become increasingly understood during homeostasis, development, normal aging, and neurodegenerative conditions. Using a variety of normal and transgenic mouse models of diseases such as Alzheimerís disease this project seeks to understand the cross-talk between peripheral immune cells and microglia to better define molecular signals influencing the inflammatory changes that regulate brain behavior during aging and disease. In this project students will develop an understanding of brain neuroanatomy and changes unique to aging, sex, and disease while learning to fix, section, and immunostain mouse brains. They will learn microscopy techniques and digital imaging/processing along with statistical analysis, hypothesis testing, and scientific writing skills.