Experimental Phase of “The Curious Case of OipA”

Hello and welcome to the wrap up of the Fall 2016 edition of “The Curious Case of OipA!” Since I was last on the SuRGe blog, I have completed phase 1 of my project, and have successfully created all of my mutant oipA strains of Helicobacter pylori. Now I am well into the experimental phase, and have some interesting preliminary results regarding the role of OipA in the pathogenicity of both cag pathogenicity island negative (less virulent) and positive (more virulent) strains of HP.

[Read more…]

The Hazards of Understanding the Past

“Comment allez-vous?” the archivist asked, extending his hand.

“Michaela,” I replied, happy to introduce myself after three weeks of asking this person for documents.

[Read more…]

Reading the Grain

In order to tell the stories of people who don’t leave behind their own written record, historians talk about reading against the grain (scrutinizing the information that a writer in the past reveals for all of its biases to learn something the writer doesn’t say) or reading along the archival grain (understanding the way that archives are built to learn information about people not writing any sources). I anticipated having to employ both of these strategies when I was researching my dissertation in history on gender and sexuality among Illinois Indians, especially during my visit to the Archives nationales d’outre-mer in Aix-en-Provence, which houses all of the official records from the French colonization of North America. I expected to find a lot of documents from old white dudes, talking about the status of forts and shipping, and that I was going to have to read between the lines of all of this “official” business to discover what Native Americans were doing at the same time and how gender and sexuality factored into French colonization.

[Read more…]

Health Officials and Birth Registration: Tanzania’s Efforts to Aid Citizens

My field visit to Mbeya shaped the rest of my research. The interviews answered questions I had been wondering all spring semester while doing background research on my thesis, but new questions had appeared. Has the federal government actually prioritized birth registration, or is it still relatively unimportant? How has the government used the more representative data to plan for its citizens? What factors can make a family more inclined to register their children? Will Tanzania ever be able to achieve 100% birth registration rates?

[Read more…]

Understanding Birth Registration in Tanzania through UNICEF Efforts

Globally, over 230 million children are “invisible”—their births and existence remain unregistered with their country’s civil registration system. Birth registration is a part of a civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) system that documents important life events of citizens. Without birth registration and certificates, children are more vulnerable to human trafficking, illegal identity changes, early marriage, forced labor, military recruitment, and involvement in armed conflict. Incomplete birth registries also hinder a state’s planning for its citizens, particularly regarding the provision of health services. The lack of birth registration is a pressing issue in “least developed” countries, with the under-five birth registration rate being only 35%. In recent years, the United Republic of Tanzania had the lowest under-five birth registration rate in eastern Africa at a rate of 16%. In an effort to increase birth registration, the Tanzanian government has partnered with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to increase birth registration through an initiative that eliminates the registration fee, decentralizes the registration process, advertises the importance of birth registration, and uses mobile phones to register children. I spent nine weeks in Tanzania collecting research on this topic for my honors thesis to better understand government provision of public services, the social and economic factors affecting Tanzanian citizens, and the use of mobile technology to increase birth registration.

[Read more…]

Peer Socialization Practices and Externalizing Symptomology among Adolescents (Part 2)

When one studies the mind, one studies people. While finding statistical significance in the data is exciting, I feel the most rewarding part of psychological research is conducting an interview. It can be a truly profound and humbling experience to have a stranger give you such insight into the way they think and view themselves, those important to them, and the world. When people form a friendship, they tend to learn about one another over time as they grow closer to one another. In an interview for clinical psychology research, one learns a lot about another person all at once. While as a researcher, one might learn more about the mind through interviewing, as an individual one is also able to learn about the human condition. This type of research is very rewarding, therefore, because on is able to grow not only as a scholar, but as a person. While in the data set or in the final paper participants might just be identification numbers and points in a data set, to the interviewer they are very real and unique people who more often than not, in sharing their life and their mind, impart a small lesson in understanding others and their points of view that otherwise the interviewer may not have been able to experience. I have found this to be exciting as a student of psychology for two reasons: first, it allows for verification or discovery of insights into the mind and behavior, and on the other it allows for real experience of what one learns in a lecture. While a discussion with a research assistant in a laboratory may not be as ecologically valid as the real world, so to speak, but it certainly feels more so than what one learns in a text book in the library.

[Read more…]

Peer Socialization Practices and Externalizing Symptomology among Adolescents (Part 1)

Ivan Pavlov, the renowned physiologist best known for his work in classical conditioning, once said “Don’t become a mere recorder of facts, but try to penetrate the mystery of their origin”. In the field of psychology, researchers aim to, broadly speaking, understand the mystery of the mind. Research in psychology is intriguing, however, because the mind is something that, as of yet, cannot be directly measured. Therefore, when conducting a psychological study, one must record what results from the mind in various instances in order to try attain this understanding. The data that are recorded in this effort at understanding vary based on the means and needs of the researcher, and can range from behavioral, to self-report, to physiological. Further, because the mind is such a vast and varied topic of study, only a small foray into understanding it can be made in any given research effort. For instance, Pavlov learned that the mind can be trained to link an innate response particular to one stimulus to another, previously neutral, stimulus. This might not seem as earth-moving as Copernicus’ heliocentric theory, but classical conditioning was a highly important discovery. Perhaps the aspect of psychological research that is both most enticing and most disheartening is that the mystery that the field is attempting to solve is highly shrouded, and that shroud can only be lifted little by little as researchers pull at it from all sides.

[Read more…]

Future Directions for “The Curious Case of OipA”

While we have made a lot of progress in the project this semester, there is still very much work to be done. Currently we have J75 and 26695 with BamHI sites digested as well as PMM674 (which has the CAT-rdxA cassette). Next step: run a gel with a small amount of digestion of J75 and 26695 just to make sure they cut correctly by comparing to the uncut plasmids with the BamHI site. Simultaneously, run gel on all of the PMM674 digestion to purify the CAT-rdxA cassette. Then ligase the two together, transform into E. coli, extract plasmid, and then confirm that the CAT-rdxA cassette is inserted correctly!

[Read more…]

Spring 2016 Progress

This was my first semester back in the lab since last spring- very exciting! Since I have been back from studying abroad, I have been starting work on what will be my honors project, “Turning on oipA in cagPAI negative strains of Helicobacter pylori,” or, “The Curious Case of oipA” as I like to refer to it.

[Read more…]

The Curious Case of OipA

helicobacter-pylori-s3-causeHelicobacter pylori (HP) is a Gram-negative bacterium that affects more than half of the world’s population. While most people never show symptoms of being colonized by HP, in some individuals it is associated with peptic ulcers as well as gastric cancer. Rather than causing this sort of damage in the stomach directly, most of the injury inflicted on a host infected with HP is actually done by the host’s own immune system. The bacterium accomplishes this by inducing the secretion of inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-8 (IL-8), leading to increased inflammation. OipA, an outer inflammatory protein, is an important virulence factor in HP associated with this action. Meanwhile, the Cag pathogenicity island (cag PAI) encodes a type IV secretion system that has been found to translocate CagA. CagA is a protein also associated with inflammatory response by eliciting IL-8 production when it is translocated into a target host cell upon HP attachment. In cag PAI negative strains, this pathogenicity island is absent.

[Read more…]