Session D: 3:30PM – 5PM

Health and Medicine. Session D – Poster Presentations, Ballroom, Union

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)
Ballroom, A. Ray Olpin University Union


Change of Motion: The Revolutionary Shoulder Brace
Ryland Day, Utah Tech University
Adam Dimaio, Utah Tech University
Justin LeClair, Utah Tech University
Syrus Miner, Utah Tech University

Faculty Mentor: Vinodh Chellamuthu, Utah Tech University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

The majority of physical therapy patients do not achieve their desired outcomes. Due to the recent global pandemic, many physical therapy patients were unable to attend appointments and the communication between physical therapists and patients was negatively impacted. This led to patients not knowing what they should be doing to get better or even maintain their progress without the correct equipment. New and improved remote and virtual meeting technologies have the potential to make physical therapy more convenient and accessible. We plan to develop a method to increase the number of patients reaching a positive result with their physical therapy through modern technologies; a smart at home physical therapy product that is paired with an app along with a box of equipment and supplements specific to the needs of the patient’s area of focus. Each part of this product will give patients the necessary aids to achieve their long-term physical therapy goals. Advances in technology can bring the physical therapists and the patients closer together with the ability to click on an assigned exercise and learn how it needs to be done with a video or recording would be a game changer for a lot of recovering patients. Having access to the right equipment or supplements to help the healing process advance would be very beneficial as well. This is a preliminary idea within our interdisciplinary group of a mechanical engineer, biomedical science, and computer science background.


A Transcriptomic Analysis of Triple Negative Breast Cancer Revealing Alternative Drug Therapeutics
Mauri Dobbs, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor: Brett Pickett, Brigham Young University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Breast cancer is the most common tumor type in men and women combined; this year the National Cancer Institute estimates there will be 290,560 new cases in the United States and 43,780 deaths (2022). Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) lacks three typical surface markers of breast cancer-estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER-2)-which are common targets for endocrine or drug therapy, severely limiting TNBC treatment options. 40% of TNBC patients will die within five years of diagnosis (Yin 2020). Additionally, it has heightened risk for metastasis after neoadjuvant chemotherapy (defined as chemotherapy followed by surgical extraction of the tumor) compared to non-TNBC (Liedtke 2014) and the post-surgical recurrence rate of TNBC is as much as 25% (Yin 2020). The poor prognosis and low success rate of surgical treatment and chemotherapy underline the necessity of new treatment options. Discovery of new drugs would enable better treatment of TNBC and could greatly improve patient survival. Using a computational workflow, Automated Reproducible MOdular Workflow for Preprocessing and Differential Analysis of RNA-seq Data (ARMOR), we identified differentially expressed genes in TNBC cells. Publicly available RNA-sequencing files were obtained from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) database. ARMOR used RNA-sequencing data from high-throughput sequencing and massively parallel computing to map and quantify the sequencing reads from each clinical sample to the human transcriptome. We determined genes that are overexpressed or underexpressed compared to healthy cells. We then contextualized the genes identified by ARMOR into signaling pathways using SPIA (Signaling Pathway Impact Analysis). Our third software, Pathways2Targets contains a drug database and elucidates drugs that have known interactions with these enriched signaling pathways, ranking them based on how many pathways they can target. Our findings predicted existing, FDA-approved drugs that could be relevant therapeutics for TNBC, which can then be evaluated in future experiments and clinical trials. These results could improve survival rates and quality of life for patients with TNBC.
Literature Cited:
Yin, L., Duan, J. J., Bian, X. W., & Yu, S. C. (2020). Triple-negative breast cancer molecular subtyping and treatment progress. Breast cancer research : BCR, 22(1), 61.
Hormone therapy for breast cancer: Breast cancer treatment. American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Retrieved October 31, 2022, from


Potential role of multivitamins in down-regulation of acyl peptide enzyme hydrolase
Brenen Halliday, Weber State University

Faculty Mentor: Tracy Covey, Weber State University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Acyl peptide enzyme hydrolase, abbreviated as APEH, is a cytosolic protease with both exopeptidase and endopeptidase activities. APEH is primarily responsible for the removal of N-terminal acetylated amino acids from its peptide substrates; however, APEH can also internally cleave proteins that have become oxidized (hence is also called Oxidized Protein Hydrolase). APEH appears to play a cytoprotective role since it has been reported to have reduced activity in type-two diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and various cancers. One mechanism of APEH’s reduced activity comes from enzyme inhibition by inflammatory mediators, suggesting that diseases associated with chronic inflammation would have reduced APEH activity. A recent paper showed that APEH enzyme can be activated with various tea extracts and this activation of APEH may be included among the many health benefits of drinking tea. For this project, we are building on that work by investigating other potential activators of APEH. To start, a selection of vitamins has been considered and is being tested to identify activators of APEH using enzyme kinetics. Finding additional activators with known chemical structures is beneficial to elucidating how APEH is regulated in the cell. Understanding how APEH can be activated may be therapeutically-desired in diseases associated with APEH down-regulation and chronic inflammation.



Vascularization of Renal Organoids Using Chorioallantoic Membrane
Hayden Johns, Utah State University

Faculty Mentor: Justin Jones, Utah State University
SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)
The incidence of chronic kidney disease is growing globally, including in regions unable to provide the appropriate infrastructure to care for patients. Furthermore, while the standard therapies of dialysis and kidney transplantation are life-saving, these are costly, pose health risks, and leave patients with a decreased quality of life. Thus, it is imperative to develop new therapies to accommodate the increasing number of renal failure patients. To this end, cell-based tissue engineering and regenerative medicine approaches have provided viable avenues toward alternative treatment opportunities. Previous work in our lab and others showed that renal organoids possess different nephron cell populations, including proximal tubule, loop of Henle, distal tubule, and glomeruli-presenting an excellent opportunity to use these organoids for therapeutic development. Although utilizing the renal organoids to generate kidney tissues is a potential solution, in vitro development of large tissues greater than 200µm in diameter is challenging due to a diffusion limitation, leading to necrosis. Establishing vascularization of organoids would avoid necrosis and permit continued maturation of renal tissue. To demonstrate this hypothesis, we explored the possibility of vascularizing renal tissue organoids using a chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) model to promote tissue growth and maturation. Renal organoids were derived from induced pluripotent stem cells using differentiation factors (CHIR and FGF9). After differentiation, cells were aggregated and matured into organoids for five days in vitro. A subset of these organoids was encapsulated in a collagen hydrogel and incubated for culture, while the remainder were cultured as free organoids for three weeks. The organoids were implanted onto the CAM of 5-day chick eggs, and images were taken daily with a stereoscope to evaluate morphological changes. After seven days in ovo, the organoid samples were embedded in paraffin, sectioned, and stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) stain to assess tissue morphology. Alcian blue and picrosirius red stains were performed to detect off-target differentiation, such as chondrogenesis. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) was performed to identify the early and mature vascular markers, MCAM and CD31, respectively. After analysis we found that endothelial cells were not present within the organoids-suggesting no vascularization had occurred-but unencapsulated organoids implanted onto the CAM did grow into larger tissues. However, all groups of organoids showed evidence of off-target chondrogenesis, likely due to the hypoxic conditions generated by this lack of vascularization and integration. This finding demonstrates that the CAM may have supported the organoids enough to delay severe hypoxia. Although the CAM was unable to vascularize the organoids in this experiment, future studies in supplementing growth factors such as VEGF into hydrogel constructs or implantation onto a better controlled in vitro vascular bed may provide better outcomes for organoid-derived tissue growth and maturation.

Characterization of Potent Antibiotic Compounds Produced by Bacteria Found in the Soil Around BYU Campus
Michael Moran, Brigham Young University
Hogan Turner

Faculty Mentor: Richard Robison, Brigham Young University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

With the threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria on the rise, the need for new antibiotics has never been greater. This is especially true when it comes to Gram-negative bacteria, against which relatively few antibiotics are effective. While the soil and its microbes have historically been a goldmine of antibiotics, researchers have come up empty-handed in recent years. Bacillus is one such microbial genus found in the soil that is known to produce a variety of antimicrobial agents. This genus produces a variety of antimicrobial agents, of which bacitracin and polymyxin are two of the most well-known. In this study, we isolated Bacillus species from the dirt around BYU campus and screened them against four target strains (Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Mycobacterium phlei) to observe their antimicrobial activity. Interestingly, we found that seven of our isolates demonstrated broad-spectrum activity against all four of our target strains. We screened these seven isolates against nine clinical strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and 31 carbapenem-resistant Enterobacterales (CRE) strains, and found that four of our isolates had activity against the vast majority of these target strains. While the exact identity of our isolates remains unknown, we are working to isolate and characterize the potent antibiotic compounds being produced by our isolates. Additionally, we hope to annotate our isolate’s genomes to discover what genes encode the antibiotic compounds.



Generation of Point Mutants in the ETV6 gene in Primary Human Megakaryocytes
Puja Batchu, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor: Jesse Rowley, University of Utah

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

The ETV6 gene encodes a protein transcription factor (TF) that represses gene activity. Mutant ETV6 function is linked to predisposition to leukemia, lower platelet counts, and functional platelet defects. We generate pathogenic ETV6 mutations in megakaryocytes (MK), the precursor cell of platelets, to test mutation effects on ETV6 function and MK development. Since the ETV6 TF is a repressor, we predict that mutations will cause overexpression of ETV6 responsive genes involved in platelet function and hematological disease. Platelets are anucleate and cannot be directly edited. Instead, CRIMSON (CRIspr edited MKs for rapid Screening of platelet gene functiONs) edits primary human CD34+ cell derived MKs. CRIMSON uses the CRISPR Cas-9 system, coupled with single stranded DNA (ssDNA) donors and inhibitors of nonhomologous end joining to promote homologous directed repair (HDR) in MKs. This system incorporates a single strand of DNA harboring the mutation of interest. Literature review identified mutations that affect platelets including R339C, R418G, P214L, and R396Q. Multiple CRISPR guide RNAs and ssDNA donors were made using a CRISPR HDR Design Tool that computes the number of base pairs to cut site and predicted accuracy. Each guide was transfected into MKs to test efficiency (data quantified and analyzed with sanger sequencing). Transfections were successful at all 4 sites, but cutting efficiencies were low, except for 2 guides targeting the R339C mutation, which had a cutting efficiency up to 83.8%. Next, the 2 guides and different ssDNA homologous donors harboring the R399C mutation were tested for HDR efficiency, and we identified a ssDNA/guide combination that yielded efficient generation of the R399C mutation in MKs. Genetically edited MKs will be used to create platelets that will be tested for RNA expression changes, and changes in platelet function. This will provide insights on how ETV6 mutations affect platelet function in hematological diseases.


Fetal hematopoietic stem cell metabolism in response to varying prenatal folate status
Victoria Chiou, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor: Anna Beaudin, University of Utah

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Folate-mediated one carbon metabolism is essential for de novo nucleotide synthesis, cellular methylation, regulation of mitochondrial metabolism. These processes are critical to the maintenance and development of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). HSCs are generated during fetal development and are responsible for generation of all blood cells across the lifespan. Universal folic acid supplementation of the population is currently utilized for the prevention of common birth defects, but there are currently no known studies on the influence of prenatal folic acid supplementation on the development of HSCs. To examine the effects of prenatal folic acid supplementation on HSC function, wild type C57BL/6 female mice were weaned onto one of three diets, 0mg/kg (folate deficient, FD), 2mg/kg (folate control, FC), or 8mg/kg (folate supplemented, FS), and mice were timed mated to generate litters under each condition. Both FD and FS significantly decreased fetal weights at embryonic day (E)14.5 as compared to FC offspring. Despite growth restriction, profiling of the developing hematopoietic compartment using flow cytometry at E14.5 revealed overall expansion of all blood cells in response to FD as compared to FC offspring, whereas all blood cells were significantly reduced in FS offspring. Increased blood cells in FD offspring were driven by expansion of HSCs and all downstream progenitor and mature cells. In contrast, FS caused decreased mature myeloid and lymphoid cells at E14.5, whereas hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) were unaffected. To determine the underlying mechanisms of varying prenatal folate on hematopoietic output, we metabolically profiled E14.5 HSPCs to determine OXPHOS (oxidative phosphorylation) and glycolytic activity. Preliminary results show that FS offspring exhibited higher rates of glycolytic activity as compared to FC offspring. Additionally, FS offspring had higher OXPHOS activity per cell as compared to FC offspring. These data reveal that prenatal folate alters HSPC metabolism during fetal life.



International Trade Networks and the Prediction of Trade Mediated Pathogens
Eliza Diggins, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor: Melodie Weller, University of Utah

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

The emergence the COVID-19 pandemic and its continued prevalence in the human population has illustrated significant obstacles to infectious disease surveillance and prevention on a global scale. While a great deal of research has been done on the impact of globalization on human-human transmission of pathogens, significantly less focus has been placed on the role that the international trade of food commodities might play in the spread of pathogens. Additionally, the rising threat of climate change poses significant challenges to both the stability of the global food supply, and to the resilience of staple crops to pathogens capable of impacting humans. A model was designed to improve surveillance of these pathogens by analyzing their associated epidemiological data to determine country and commodity of origin. To that end, in this work we illustrate a method for constructing directed trade-networks (DTNs) of the specific trade routes employed by countries when importing a specific commodity. This methodology utilizes the unparalleled accuracy of the UN Comtrade Database to provide the underlying data for the network construction process. We then consider the properties of these networks and describe how to use our analysis framework to identify potential source commodities and countries of a given pathogen. This is done through comparison of network topology and international infectious disease datasets. Two main approaches are explored, namely correlation measures and structural break methods between the networks and the pathogen related dataset of interest. The analyses described will support future evaluation of trade-related, infectious disease events in their ability to identify the likely source of a particular pathogen. Furthermore, the application of this approach to model commodity-linked pathogens could be a versatile tool for informing policymakers on the potential epidemiological threats posed by trade policies.


Fully Magnetically Levitated Continuous Flow Left Ventricular Assist Device: Are We There Yet?

Tanner Frahm, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor: Rami Alharethi, University of Utah

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Purpose: Despite improvements in the continuous flow (CF) durable left ventricular assist device (LVAD), hemocompatibility complications are still the major contributor to morbidity and mortality post implant. The Abbott Heartmate 3 (HM3) is the only FDA approved LVAD as bridge to transplantation (BTT), bridge to decision (BTD) and destination therapy (DT). The purpose of this study is to compare the survival and rate of neurological and hemocompatibility complications including mucosal bleed and pump thrombosis in patients (pts) from our center supported with the HM3 to previous generations of LVADs: the Abbott HeartMate II (HM II) and the Medtronic HeartWare (HW). Methods: The Utah Artificial Heart Program database was queried for pts supported with CF LVADs from 2004-2022. Patient hemocompatibility outcomes were retrospectively quantified. Rate ratios, confidence intervals, and significance testing were calculated with Poisson Tests for independence. Post-implant survival was calculated with Kaplan-Meier estimation. Survival was compared with log rank tests. 23 pts were excluded from adverse event analysis due to lack of follow-up. P-values <0.05 were considered significant. Results: 231 pts were implanted with CF LVADs at our center, HM3 n = 36, HM II n = 85, HW n = 103 with average age 56±13.8 yrs, 22% female and INTERMACS profile 3 being similar across all devices. The intent of therapy was comparable across the three devices. In comparison to both HM II and HW, the HM 3 was associated with statistically significant lower occurrence of almost all hemocompatibility complications and superior survival rates (Table). Conclusion: In this large single-center study, the fully magnetically levitated CF LVAD (HM3) outperformed the other generations of CF LVAD (HM II and HW) in both post-implant survival and rate of hemocompatibility complications. These results imply that the HM3 takes us a step closer towards the goal “there”.


Control of Isolation Induced Aggression through Activation of Medial Prefrontal Cortex Pyramidal Neurons
Jordyn Gagon, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor: Moriel Zelikowsky, University of Utah

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

The effects of social isolation are felt deeply throughout many populations. One example is prison inmates who have been placed in solitary confinement are more likely to experience suicidal ideology, irritability, and aggression. Furthermore, mouse models have shown social isolation in mice increases aggression in comparison to group-housed animals. Previous work has established that mPFC pyramidal neurons project to multiple subcortical aggression centers, and that activation of such neurons in mPFC reduces aggression. Despite this, no work has focused on how this population of neurons may regulate social isolation-induced aggression nor have these neurons been studied in females. Here, we expand on previous work by examining whether activation of mPFC pyramidal neurons reduces aggression in socially isolated female mice. To this end, we infused a virus encoding the excitatory DREADD, hM3D, fused to mCherry, under control of the CaMKII promoter into the mPFC of female C57Bl6/N mice (N=8). A virus expressing mCherry without the hM3D DREADD under the control of the CaMKII promoter was used as a control (N=9). Following surgery, all mice were socially isolated for 4 weeks to induce aggression. After isolation, a within subject’s design was used to examine the impact of DREADD-mediated activation on aggression. Each animal was tested twice on the resident intruder assay- once in which the DREADD ligand, Descholorclozapine (DCZ) administered via i.p, injection and once with vehicle- 48 hours apart. The viral conditions were counterbalanced such that half the animals in each viral condition received DCZ on the first test day and half received an injection of the vehicle. Activation of mPFC pyramidal neurons significantly decreased aggression in isolated mice (Repeated Measures ANOVA, p<.05). These results support the hypothesis that the mPFC plays an inhibitory role in aggressive behavior, and mPFC pyramidal neurons are essential to this inhibitory control.


Estimating the Impact of COVID-19 Interventions on the Effective Reproduction Number
Alicia Horn, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor: Lindsay Keegan, University of Utah

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

There have been many different attempts to measure the efficacy of mask mandates on the spread of airborne diseases, many of which focus on different aspects of disease transmission and prevention. One such method described by Britton is by comparing the relative reduction in reproductive number (Efm ) pre- and post-intervention. We used the methods outlined in Britton to calculate the Efm, following three key dates: June 28th, 2020 the date of the Salt Lake and Summit County mask mandates, November 9th, 2020 the date of the Utah State-wide mask mandate and April 10th, 2021 the date when all mandates were lifted except in Salt Lake City. The Efm   was calculated for each county in the state, 28 days before and after each mandate. Our results showed that most counties had a reduction in the growth rate of cases after the county wide and state wide mandates were put into place. There was a greater reduction in reproductive numbers after the  introduction of the Salt Lake and Summit County mandates  compared to the change in Efm after the statewide mandate. This could be a result of county level mask mandates already being in effect across the state at the time of the introduction of the statewide mandate, leading to a reduced reduction in cases because of the mandates already in place. When the mask mandates were lifted, the Efm rose across the state in several counties, indicating that the reproductive number grew after the mandate was lifted. By studying the interventions that were used for this pandemic, we can be better prepared for future pandemics.
Citation:  Britton, Tom. “Quantifying the preventive effect of wearing face masks.” Proceedings. Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences vol. 477,2251 (2021): 20210151. doi:10.1098/rspa.2021.0151



Challenges to the ability of EMS systems to locate an emergency in low-resource settings: a qualitative study
McKenna Hunt, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor: Sudha Jayaraman, University of Utah

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Efficient pre-hospital emergency care can significantly improve healthcare outcomes. Difficulty locating the emergency is a significant challenge, contributing to inefficiency in pre-hospital care. The goal of this study was to describe challenges emergency medical response (EMS) teams face in Rwanda locating emergencies & to explore potential opportunities for improvement. We conducted 21 in-depth interviews with 4 stakeholder groups representing the EMS response system in Rwanda: ambulance dispatchers, ambulance field staff, receiving hospital staff, & policymakers. Interviews covered participants’ perspectives on the challenges related to locating an emergency, how challenges impact quality of pre-hospital care, & what opportunities exist for process/tool development. Audio recorded interviews lasted 30-90 minutes each. Transcripts were coded using NVivo into 3 domains: the process of locating an emergency, impacts of challenges, & opportunities for processes/tools.
The current process of locating an emergency was hampered by lack of supportive technology, dependence on individual’s local knowledge to describe the location, & inefficient communication channels for sharing location (e.g., between caller, dispatch, ambulance). Challenges in locating an emergency led to longer response times, inconsistencies in rapid response based on an individual’s knowledge of the area, & communication difficulties. Interviews also revealed 3 types of opportunities to improve the location of emergencies: technology to geolocate an emergency accurately & better time response, improvements in communication to allow for ambulance access to real-time interaction between the caller & dispatch, & better location data from the public. Timely EMS response is essential for optimal clinical outcomes, but significant challenges exist in locating emergencies. There is an urgent need to implement locally relevant solutions to improve the efficient location of emergencies in Kigali, Rwanda.


Characterization and Stability of Fluorescent Ultrasmall Porous Silica Nanoparticles for Use in Image-Guided Treatment of Peritoneal Metastasis

Kylee McManus, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor: Shreya Goel, University of Utah

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Peritoneal metastases are growths that arise from the shedding and implantation of cancerous cells from ovarian, gastric, colorectal or extraperitoneal (breast, lung) origin in the peritoneal cavity [1]. These metastases are typically treated through combination therapies such as surgery and chemotherapy. However, full tumor resection is challenging, and the incomplete removal of cancerous tissue can lead to recurrence in the patient. Thus, there is a need for fluorescent guided probes for use in tumor resection as they offer high specificity and real-time capabilities [2]. Nanocarriers have the potential to deliver drugs and imaging tracers to tumor sites and accumulate at targeted locations, allowing for improved diagnosis and therapy. Ultrasmall Porous Silica Nanoparticles (UPSNs) (hydrodynamic diameter (HD) ~ 15 nm) have demonstrated enhanced tumor uptake, evasion and timely hepatobiliary clearance profile [3]. We synthesized the UPSNs and evaluated them for size, surface charge, and morphology using Dynamic Light scattering and Transmission electron microscopy. Surface modification of UPSN with polyethylene glycol (PEG) allowed long blood circulation and amine groups provide facile chemistry for conjugation. Stability of UPSNs were monitored at 4°C and 25°C to assess the shelf life under different storage conditions. UPSNs were tested in animal models of cancer metastasis. Results: UPSNs maintain stability for up to 90 days at both 4°C (HD: 17.65 ± 2.82 nm, PDI 0.026 ± 0.0056) and 25°C (HD: 12.81 ± 3.46, PDI 0.078 ± 0.02).  Biodistribution assessment of Cy5 conjugated particles (UPSN-Cy5) in mouse models of peritoneal metastasis of gastric cancer using optical imaging suggested the selective uptake of UPSN-Cy5 in tumors with improved specificity compared to ICG, an FDA-approved fluorescent probe, allowing for complete resection of metastatic tumor nodules in all mice tested. Overall, UPSN have the potential to serve as a powerful tool for localized and precise treatment of cancer through fluorescent molecular-guided surgery.


Barriers with Recruitment and Retention of Diverse Populations in Psychological Research
Melika Moeinvaziri, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor: Scott Langenecker, University of Utah

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Psychological Research has struggled to recruit and retain individuals of more diverse populations. While diverse populations contribute valuable information to research, many individuals of these backgrounds do not participate in research. Many of these research lab participants are white and wealthy, which does not match up with the average population’s demographics. Participants in research should reflect the diversity of our culture and conditions, taking into account race, ethnicity, gender, age, etc. The lack of diversity among research participants has serious ethical and research consequences (Palmer & Burchard (2022)). Research demographics should reflect the diverse population that we have in the United States and all over the world. The purpose of this study is to examine the barriers to the recruitment and retention of diverse populations in psychological research. This study will examine how these barriers affect psychological research and how we can improve access and retention of more diverse populations


Structural Patterns in ON Cone Bipolar Synapses of Mammalian Retina
Taylor Otterness, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor: Crystal Sigulinsky, University of Utah

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Purpose: Connectivity within the nervous system is precise and disruptions lead to disease, yet the rules governing this connectivity remain unknown. Recent efforts have shown that different types of ON cone bipolar cells in the neural retina show preferences in the selection and frequency of presynaptic structure types used for signal transmission. However, it is not yet known if these differences are related to the quantity and type of postsynaptic partner.The goal of this study was to analyze the synaptic output of CBb6 cells, a type of ON cone bipolar cell with diverse presynaptic structure types to identify patterns in how ON cone bipolar cells interact with their postsynaptic partners. Methods: The rabbit connectome dataset (RC1) used in the study was sampled from a 0.25mm diameter patch of mid-peripheral retina from a healthy 13 month old female Dutch-Belted rabbit and serially sectioned at 70 nm. The resulting sections were imaged at ultrastructural resolution (2nm/px) using transmission electron microscopy. Postsynaptic partners of CBb6 cell 6156’s bipolar-specific presynaptic structures (multi-ribbons, single ribbons, and ribbonless synapses) were annotated to classification using the Viking Viewer for Connectomics. Statistical analyses were conducted in Microsoft Excel and investigated further with 3D rendering and graph visualization of connectivity. The factors tracked for comparison were presynaptic structure type, target number, and postsynaptic partner type. Results: Although the ribbonless presynapses of 6156 were restricted to single postsynaptic partners, both single and multiribbon presynapses showed one or two partners, but only single ribbons exhibited more than two postsynaptic partners, despite some multiribbon synapses containing up to 6 ribbon structures. As the different presynaptic structure types are thought to differ in neurotransmitter release (ribbonless < single ribbon < multiribbon), these findings are inconsistent with scaling of presynaptic structure type with the number of postsynaptic targets. Preliminary partner classification reveals that amacrine and ganglion cells were both found postsynaptic to all presynaptic structure types and some cells received input from 6156 by multiple presynaptic structure types. More detailed analyses of partner type are ongoing. Conclusion: The preliminary findings from this study suggest that the presynaptic structure type may not correlate with either the number or type of postsynaptic targets for this particular cell type. Ongoing efforts aim to further classify the partner cells and analyze more CBb6 cells. Future efforts will look at ribbon size and cumulative postsynaptic area to determine if those measures are better predictors. If and how these findings extend across other ON cone bipolar cell types will be important for understanding why these cell types differentially utilize these presynaptic structure types and together will inform our understanding of the connectivity rules driving synapse formation in the retina and possibly the brain.


An optogenetic model of hemispatial neglect permits real-time induction of rightward spatial bias

Claire Park, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor: Nick Frost, University of Utah

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Hemispatial neglect is a disorder of spatial processing characterized by inability to attend to stimuli situated contralateral to lesions affecting the parietal cortex. Hemispatial neglect is a poor prognostic indicator following stroke. Critically, while neglect is often marked by loss of attention to visual or somatosensory stimuli, clinical tests in which patients replicate simple figures or draw from memory reveal that neglect is a disorder not of information storage or attainment, but of spatial processing. Specifically, while spatial information may be stored or represented on an allocentric coordinate system, it must be mapped onto egocentric coordinates in a process which depends on the posterior parietal cortex. Indeed, lesion studies in humans as well as in rodents have revealed the importance of this region in the expression of neglect. However, more recent work has revealed that spatial processing requires a distributed network and a number of connected regions are also implicated in neglect. Lesion studies by their nature are limited by the static permanence of the lesions. We sought to create an inducible model of hemispatial neglect using stereotactic delivery of AAV-halorhodopsin to the posterior parietal cortex in mice, permitting the reversible optical silencing of this region by light. We show that in the presence of green light delivered via an optic fiber, mice develop a rightward bias. We will next utilize this inducible model of neglect while recording from large numbers of neurons in the dorsal hippocampus or prefrontal cortex to understand how the PPC influences spatial processing during goal-directed navigation.


Examining the Relationship between Air Quality Trends and Glycemic Outcomes Among Patients With Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.
Catherine Petersen, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor: Ramkiran Gouripeddi, University of Utah

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is a chronic condition caused by insulin resistance and metabolic dysfunction. T2DM is associated with many diabetes related complications, including heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease. Long term exposure to ultrafine components of particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter ≤ 2.5 µm (PM2.5) can cross the pulmonary alveolar membrane and direct inflammatory effects on target organs, leading to oxidative stress and increased insulin resistance. While several studies have identified a relationship between PM2.5 concentrations and onset of T2DM, few have examined the role of air pollution on glycemic outcomes after T2DM diagnosis. Continued exposure to PM2.5 may worsen glycemic control and metabolic dysfunction, contributing to poor glycemic outcomes and increased morbidity/mortality in individuals with T2DM. Thus, the objective of this research was to evaluate the relationship between temporal trends in PM2.5 concentrations and glycemic outcomes among patients with T2DM in Davis, Utah, and Salt Lake Counties in Utah. Electronic medical record data for 143,434 individuals with an eligible ICD-10 diagnosis code for T2DM from 2010-2022 were selected for analysis. PM2.5 concentrations were extracted from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Air Quality System in Davis, Utah, and Salt Lake counties. Air pollution exposure profiles were created for one year after the date of a patient’s initial diagnosis. Preliminary analysis was performed using a kShape time-series clustering with 12 clusters, creating a visual representation of individual exposure for one year following diagnosis, making patterns in air pollution exposure more apparent. Analysis is ongoing and it is hopeful that the results of this study will elucidate the role of PM2.5 concentrations on glycemic outcomes in patients with T2DM and may inform public health interventions to minimize air pollution and encourage better outcomes for individuals with T2DM.



Understanding Cytokine Responses in Cancer Patients That Develop Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor-induced Diabetes
Jessica Venegas, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor: Arabella Young, University of Utah

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Cancer immunotherapy is a form of cancer treatment that educates the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. In particular, two clinically approved antibodies known as immune checkpoint inhibitors (CPIs), which block cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen-4 (CTLA-4) and programmed death-1 (PD-1) have provided improved survival benefits for patients across a range of cancer types. However, by activating the immune system, we also observe a broad range of immune-mediated side-effects. There are currently no biomarkers to identify which patients may be susceptible to the development of CPI-induced immunotoxicity and the mechanism by which they occur remains unclear due to the rarity of certain irAEs, their variable timing, and an inability to access the irAE-affected tissue site. In this study, we aimed to better define potential clinical and demographic information alongside the dysregulation of longitudinal serum proteins, such as cytokine responses, to assess their ability to predict the development of CPI-diabetes in CPI-treated stage IV melanoma patients. We identified that certain cytokines appeared to be upregulated preceding initiation of CPI treatment in patients with CPI-diabetes (including IL-27, EOTAXIN, SFAS/TNFRSF6), whereas others appeared to be significantly modulated during the treatment course (including IL1A and MIP1B/CCL4). By comparing serum concentrations of circulating factors at baseline, early during treatment and near to initiation of CPI-induced diabetes, we identified potential drivers of CPI-associated diabetes, which could represent biomarkers for risk or potential therapeutic targets to inhibit irAEs. We will next assess the mechanism for how these changes in the serum promote differential immune responses that could contribute to CPI-related diabetes. This study has allowed us to identify a potential predictive cytokine profile that may assist in determining cancer patients that are at higher risk of developing CPI-induced diabetes.

The Effect of Concussion on Speech Production
Shu Yang, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor: Peter Fino, University of Utah

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Concussions can affect mobility and cognitive performance, and these impairments can interfere when tasks are completed concurrently (e.g., dual-tasking). As impaired speech fluency is a co-existing symptom of brain damage (ASHA, 2022), and walking while talking is a common daily dual task, this study aimed to examine how concussion alters speech fluency when sitting and walking. Our primary hypothesis was that concussion would impair speech fluency when combined with a mobility task. Specifically, longer and more frequent pauses during the speech were expected to indicate cognitive impairment (Bobba et al, 2019). The secondary hypothesis predicts both groups would exhibit a decline in speech fluency when walking compared to sitting. A total of 22 participants with a recent mTBI and 19 healthy individuals were provided informed written consent for this IRB-approved study. Participants completed two one-minute talking tasks: talking while sitting down (single-task) and talking while walking back and forth in a hallway (dual-task). Participants selected two topics from a predefined list and were instructed to speak for the entire minute while audio was recorded. The number and total duration of pauses during the speech were measured and compared between groups using independent t-tests. The control group showed significantly longer and more frequent pauses in dual-task (pause number p=0.0107; pause duration p=0.0289); while the mTBI group conveyed similar pause frequency for both single-task and dual-task yet longer pause duration in the dual-task (pause number p=0.8344; pause duration p=0.0197). A between-group comparison indicated the differences between the control and mTBI groups were not statistically significant. These results suggest that speech fluency is affected by walking. But the primary hypothesis cannot be rejected because subject differences for pre-mTBI speech fluency cannot be determined and speech fluency, in general, varies from person to person.


Characterization of GJA1-20k Expression in the AC16 Proliferating Cardiomyocyte Cell Line
Zane Zobell, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor: Joseph Palatinus, University of Utah

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Connexin 43 (Cx43) is the main gap junction protein found in the heart. Previous studies have shown that the gene that codes for Cx43 (GJA1) produces multiple alternatively translated proteins, the most abundant product of this alternative translation is 20kd in size and is named GJA1-20k (20k). Recent work has identified GJA1-20k as a stress response protein and its expression in the setting of ischemic injury reduces infarction size and oxygen demand in the heart. The AC16 cell line is a human cardiomyocyte derived cell line that readily divides in culture, making it an ideal cell model for myocardial cell signaling studies. The purpose of this study is to characterize GJA1-20k expression in this cell line to facilitate mechanistic understanding of the pathways regulating GJA1-20k signaling. We performed western blotting to determine that GJA1-20k is present in the AC16 cell line and this was confirmed with GJA1 siRNA knockdown. When compared to other cell types, the GJA1-20k band in AC16 cells appears as a doublet which disappears with phosphatase treatment indicating that GJA1-20k is phosphorylated in the AC16 cell line. As GJA1-20k has been established as a stress response protein, we treated AC16 cells with Ionomycin and TPA to induce oxidative stress and determine whether 1) endogenous GJA1-20k expression increased and 2) whether exogenous GJA1-20k expression reduces the degree of cell injury death in response to oxidative stress in this cell line. The ultimate goal of this project is to determine whether the AC16 cell line recapitulates the phenotype observed in vivo in response to GJA1-20k expression.


Developing a Novel Fluorogenic-Based Assay to Measure Chaperone Mediated Autophagy Degradation Capacity in Cells and Tissues
Anila Jonnavithula, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor: Rajeshwary Ghosh, University of Utah

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Pathologies including cancer, neurodegenerative, and cardiovascular diseases, are caused by the accumulation of misfolded/damaged proteins. Intracellular protein degradation mechanisms play a critical role in the clearance of these disease-causing proteins. Chaperone mediated autophagy (CMA) is a protein degradation pathway that employs chaperones to bind proteins, bearing a unique KFERQ-like motif, for delivery to a CMA-specific Lysosome Associated Membrane Protein 2a (LAMP2a) receptor for lysosomal degradation. To date, steady-state CMA function has been assessed by measuring LAMP2a protein expression. However, this does not provide information regarding CMA degradation activity.  To fill this dearth of tools / assays to measure CMA activity in cells and tissues from preclinical models, we generated a CMA-specific fluorogenic substrate assay. Methods: A KFERQ-AMC [Lys-Phe-Asp-Arg-Gln-AMC(7-amino-4-methylcou-marin)] fluorogenic CMA substrate was synthesized from Solid-Phase Peptide Synthesis. KFERQ-AMC when cleaved via lysosomal hydrolysis causes AMC to release and fluoresce (Excitation:355 nm, Emission:460 nm). Using an inhibitor of lysosomal proteases, i.e., E64D [L-trans-Epoxy-succinyl-leucylamido(4-guanidino)butane)], responsible for cleaving CMA substrates, the actual CMA activity was determined. Essentially, CMA activity = (substrate)fluorescence – (substrate+E64D) fluorescence. To confirm specificity of the KFERQ sequence for CMA, scrambled peptides served as negative controls. Results: Heart, liver, and kidney lysates containing intact lysosomes were obtained from 4-month-old adult male mice (n=6 tissue samples/group). First, lysates incubated with KFERQ-AMC displayed a time dependent (0-5 hour) increase in AMC fluorescence vs. lysates incubated with scrambled peptides. These data validate the specificity of KFERQ for CMA. Of note, liver exhibited the highest CMA (6-fold; p<0.05) > kidney (2.4-fold) > heart (0.4-fold) at 5-hour. Second, E64D prevented KFERQ-AMC degradation, substantiating that KFERQ-AMC is degraded via lysosomes. Third, cleavage of KFERQ-AMC and resulting AMC fluorescence was inhibited in H9c2 cardiac cells transfected with LAMP2a vs. control siRNA. These data suggest LAMP2a is required for KFERQ degradation. Conclusion: We have generated a novel CMA activity assay for use in cells and tissues in a variety of experimental contexts.



Proopiomelanocortin Deficiency and Effect on Sexual Behavior in Mice
Kimberlyn Argyle, Utah Valley University
Lauren Guerrero Silva, Utah Valley University

Faculty Mentor: Zoe Thompson, Utah Valley University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Proopiomelanocortin (Pomc) is a gene expressed primarily in the arcuate nucleus (ARC) of the hypothalamus. The products of this gene include melanocyte stimulating hormone, adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH), and beta-endorphin. Alpha-MSH is involved in both sexual behavior and appetite regulation. ACTH is a peptide hormone that plays a role in glucocorticoid secretion from the adrenal cortex, and beta-endorphin is an opioid peptide that is closely linked to pain management and reward signaling. This makes Pomc a powerful influence on overall health, particularly in relation to body weight and fertility. Mutations in the Pomc gene result in significant deficiency of Pomc expression. In humans, this translates to extreme hyperphagia, early onset (and extreme) obesity, hypocortisolism, light skin, and red hair pigmentation. It also seems to affect pubertal development. Several of these effects are also apparent in a mouse model of Pomc-deficiency. We are interested in using this mouse model to help us determine the cause for the observed infertility experienced by Pomc-deficient mice, and potentially Pomc-deficient individuals as well. We plan to specifically evaluate the differences between wild-type (control) mice and affected POMC-deficient mice in precursor sexual behavior, libido, adherence to copulatory norms, and ultrasonic communication. We will capture both video and audio recording of the sexual behavior interactions between Pomc-deficient male mice with wildtype female mice, as well as with Pomc-deficient female mice with wildtype male mice. We will compare these recordings to the interactions observed between male and female wildtype mice. These results will help us to understand whether Pomc-deficient exhibit normal sexual behavior, and how that may affect their reproductive success. This will also help us learn more about the relationship between Pomc expression and overall reproductive function that may exist in humans as well.


Staying Hydrated – A Comparative Analysis of Humectants in Human Skeletal Muscle Tissue
Rachel Prince, Brigham Young University
Joseph Monsen, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor: Jason Adams, Brigham Young University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Humectants are an important class of compounds that attract and retain water within a cell. These substances are commonly used in skincare products to prevent the outer layers of the skin from drying out. Humectants also serve a similar purpose in tissue preservation and prevention of decomposition of cadaveric specimens. As there have been few comparative studies analyzing the effects of different chemicals on the preservation of cadaveric tissue, we designed an assay consisting of wet-dry analysis to compare the effects of three common humectants (glycerol, propylene glycol, and ethylene glycol) on water retention in skeletal muscle tissue. We submerged equally sized sections of human skeletal muscle tissue in differing concentrations of each of the three humectants for 24 hours. Subsequently, we placed the tissues in an incubator at 60°C weighing the tissue after 12 hours. Finally, we calculated the percent difference between the original tissue mass and the tissue mass after drying in the incubator. We created a concentration gradient for each humectant to identify the optimal concentration of each compound for water absorption and retention in the tissue. We then performed a second set of experiments to compare the ideal concentrations of the humectants under the same conditions. With our preliminary experiments we found that tissue submerged in 15% volume/volume propylene glycol absorbed and retained the most moisture. We plan to carry out similar studies centered around other human tissues to create a tissue library as well as to provide an evidence-based standard for wetting solutions used in anatomy labs.

Cost-Effectiveness of Addressing Retinopathy of Prematurity in Rwanda
Connor Alder, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor: Mike Brown, Brigham Young University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Introduction. With the expansion of neonatal care in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), an increasing number of premature babies are at risk of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).¹ ̓² Many neonatal intensive care units in SSA are unable to provide adequate care for these infants due to problems such as nursing shortages and a lack of oxygen supplementation equipment. Previous studies have quantified the cost-effectiveness of addressing ROP in middle-income countries³, but few have focused on SSA. This study estimates the cost of ROP screening and anti-VEGF injection treatment in Rwanda compared to the economic burden of untreated ROP. Methods. Medical cost data were collected from King Faisal Hospital in Kigali, Rwanda during July 2022. The financial burden of blindness included the increased costs of education and lost income (with inflation adjustment). Published data on the epidemiology and natural history of ROP were used to estimate the annual burden and sequelae of ROP in Rwanda.¹ The country-level cost of screening and treating a one-year birth cohort was compared to the lifetime cost of not addressing ROP for the same cohort (US dollar). Results. The cost of ROP treatment is $736 per infant. The lifetime cost of blindness amounts to $200,339 per infant. The total country-level cost of screening and treating ROP for a one-year birth cohort is $2,084,122, with the burden of blindness despite adequate treatment being $29,650,172. Not treating the same cohort results in a lifetime cost of blindness of $69,918,311. Conclusion. The cost of anti-VEGF treatment for ROP is substantially less than the indirect cost of blindness due to ROP. Allocating additional funding towards expansion of ROP screening and treatment would be an effective means of reducing the economic burden of blindness due to ROP.
1. Blencowe H, Lawn JE, Vazquez T, Fielder A, Gilbert C. Preterm-associated visual impairment and estimates of retinopathy of prematurity at regional and global levels for 2010. Pediatr Res. 2013 Dec;74(S1):35-49.
2. Herrod SK, Adio A, Isenberg SJ, Lambert SR. Blindness Secondary to Retinopathy of Prematurity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ophthalmic Epidemiology. 2022 Mar 4;29(2):156-63.
3. Dave HB, Gordillo L, Yang Z, Zhang MS, Hubbard GB, Olsen TW. The Societal Burden of Blindness Secondary to Retinopathy of Prematurity in Lima, Peru. American Journal of Ophthalmology. 2012 Oct 1;154(4):750-5.



Increased Intake of Alpha-Linolenic Acid is Associated with Higher Exam Scores
Jazmin Vilches, Weber State University
Daniel Christensen, Weber State University
Jonah Christensen

Faculty Mentor: Joanna Gautney, Weber State University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Roughly 60% of the human brain is fat. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) Linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids are critical for building the brain’s structure, synthesis of neurotransmitters, and developing the visual cortex, among other important functions.  This study investigates how EFAs intake may affect brain function, and if these effects are reflected in student exam performance. We hypothesize that increased consumption EFAs will be associated with higher test scores.  An analysis of cognitive function based on exam scores was conducted on 463 student participants attending Weber State University. Two-day diet records were collected. Grams as well as percentages of recommendation consumed based on required calories of linoleic and alpha-linolenic EFAs were calculated from the diet record using Diet and Wellness Plus software. The data analysis was completed using RStudio. Models were created using linear regression and variables were removed based on p-value using backward elimination. The best model created included the following variables: LinoleicCal% (the fraction of the total calories required provided by linoleic fatty acid), α-LinolenicCal% (the fraction of the total calories required provided by alpha-linolenic fatty acid), and the interaction between the previous two variables. Exam scores increased by 8.37 times, for each additional α-LinolenicCal% percentage increase (p = .001). For each percentage increase on both LinoleicCal% and α-LinolenicCal%, exam scores decreased by 0.39 times (p = 0.002). Our results show that it is not only the amount but also the ratio in which these two fatty acids are consumed that influences exam score performance. This is in accordance with previous studies showing that intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are inversely related with risk of inpaired memory and flexibility in middle aged adults.

Differences in Bone Data Between Sexes despite Similar BMI for University Club Sport Athletes
Tate Burch, Utah State University

Faculty Mentor: Dale Wagner, Utah State University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

The body mass index (BMI) is a useful tool to measure weight adjusted for height (kg/m 2 ) but has a limited ability to identify other variables specific to the individual’s unique composition, which can lead to misconceived inferences about the body composition of individuals with similar BMI values. One way to ascertain these variables is through dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) which measures bone mineral content (BMC) and bone mineral density (BMD), among other variables. PURPOSE: The objective of this study was to analyze some of the qualities of bones, specifically BMC and BMD, and their relation to the measured BMI of university club sport athletes. METHODS: DXA and BMI data froma larger study of university club sport athletes were utilized. BMI information was calculated using the measured values of height and weight, while BMC and BMD were measured via a whole-body DXA scan (Hologic’s Horizon-W) following the manufacturer’s instructions. Independent t-tests were used to analyze the information between sexes. RESULTS: Data from 119 club sport athletes (45 female, 74 male) across 15 sports revealed statistically significant differences in BMD (p &lt; .001) and BMC (p &lt; .001) between men and women, despite their BMI being similar (p = 0.471). The BMI for females (24.3 ± 3.7 kg/m 2 ) and males (24.7 ± 3.2 kg/m 2 ) were similar even though women had a smaller mass (66.0 ± 13.5 kg) than men (79.2 ± 11.8 kg; p&lt;.001). Males had significantly greater (p &lt; .001) BMC (2.97 ± 0.37 kg vs 2.25 ± 0.37 kg) and BMD (1.28 ± 0.09 g/cc vs 1.17 ± 0.08 g/cc) compared to females. Interestingly, the lowest and highest team BMD values occurred in the same sport; female gymnasts had the lowest team BMD (1.13 ± 0.06 g/cc) while male gymnasts had the highest team BMD (1.32 ± 0.09 g/cc). CONCLUSION: BMI can be a practical tool for identifying weight categories; however, it should not be used to make inferences about BMD and BMC, regardless of similarities between the BMI results of individuals of opposite sexes.

Prenatal Folate Status Influences Hematopoietic Stem Cell Function
Kamarie Dalton, Southern Utah University

Faculty Mentor: Anna Beaudin, University of Utah

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Folate is an essential B vitamin (B9) that programs risk for developmental diseases such as neural tube defects, neural crest migration, and heart tube defects in a developing fetus as well as adult-onset diseases associated with inflammation. Healthcare professionals advise pregnant women to take a folic acid supplement during the first trimester for disease prevention. Folic acid intake can vary from deficiency to over supplementation in different populations due to socio-economic status, nutrition intake, and common genetic variation. Folate-mediated one-carbon metabolism (OCM) directly regulates critical cellular processes, including all cellular methylation reactions, de novo nucleotide biosynthesis, and mitochondrial metabolism. These processes regulate the establishment and function of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). To test the effect of prenatal folate status on HSC development, wildtype female mice were fed an experimental diet from weaning through birth to model folate variability within the population: 0mg/kg (deficient FD), 2mg/kg (control FC), and 8mg/kg (supplemented FS) and bred at 8 weeks of age. To test prenatal folate status on HSC function, competitive transplantation assays were performed using purified HSCs isolated from adult offspring born to females maintained on experimental diets through weaning. In a competitive transplantation assay, rare HSCs are isolated from the bone marrow (BM) of “donors” and purified by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) and transplanted into irradiated “recipients” along with whole BM competitor cells. We measured chimerism—the contribution of transplanted HSCs to all mature peripheral blood lineages-every 4 weeks for 20-weeks post-transplantation by peripheral blood analysis in recipient mice and determined in all BM populations at 20 weeks. There were no differences between FD and FS offspring compared to the FC as measured by donor chimerism in any peripheral blood lineages. However, the contribution of donor HSCs to myeloid, B- and T- cell lineages were increased in FS offspring as compared to FC, indicating there was a lasting effect of folate supplementation on HSC function. Furthermore, both lymphoid-biased progenitors and B-cells in the BM compartment were expanded in the BM of FS offspring as compared to FC offspring. These preliminary data shows that prenatal folate supplementation can have lasting effects on the adult hematopoietic system and HSC function. Ongoing studies using RNA-seq and ATAC-seq will provide further insight into how manipulation of prenatal folate status regulates genomic methylation and transcriptional activity and its implications for HSC self-renewal and lineage commitment.

Efficacy of Cryotherapy Modalities
Hannah Dickinson, Weber State University

Faculty Mentor: Valerie Herzog, Weber State

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Cryotherapy and compression are frequently used treatments for acute injury and post-operative healing, but the pricing of these treatments are a major concern in today’s healthcare world. A common cryotherapy modality used following orthopedic surgeries or injuries is the GameReady which circulates ice water through a sleeve while compressing the area, however, it is quite expensive (~$4000). A relatively new option for cooling and compression is a device called Hyperice, which is a sleeve that has fans attached to blow cold air, and is less expensive (~$400). In this study, we compared the two modalities for effectiveness in reducing intramuscular temperature. We inserted a thermocouple into the largest girth of the subject’s lower leg (1 cm deep to the layer of subcutaneous fat)  and measured the decrease in temperature due during a 30-minute treatment and during 25 minutes of rewarming after the treatment was removed.  20 subjects volunteered to participate in this randomized, cross-over trial (10 males, 10 females, age=24.65 ± 2.7 years, height= 173.86  ±  9.83 cm, weight= 78.22 ±16.17 kg). There was a statistically significant difference between the two treatments over time, F(11,209)=9.08, p=0.001, observed power= 0.947. By 5 minutes into the treatment, there were statistically significant differences between the devices, which continued throughout the entire treatment and rewarming phase, with the GameReady causing larger decreases in intramuscular temperatures. We also saw a clinically significant difference (2.1℃) between the two treatments at most of the time points. The GameReady lowered the intramuscular temperature more than the hyperice did, indicating that it is more effective, but it is also more expensive. Future research should evaluate the cost-effectiveness of other cryotherapy/compression modalities.

Acute Effects of Aerobic Activity Compared to Sauna Exposure on Plasma Uric Acid Concentration.
Sara Mejia, Weber State University
Menglu Jiang, Weber State University

Faculty Mentor: David  Aguilar-Alvarez, Weber State University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Aerobic exercise provides multiple health benefits, some of these benefits are modulated by increased body temperature, vasodilation, sweating, and others. Previous studies have shown that exercising results in plasma uric acid (UA) increased concentrations. In this study, we sought to investigate if a 30-minute session of sauna-induced heat therapy has similar effects as exercising aerobically for the same amount of time on plasma UA. We hypothesize that heat therapy and exercise will increase concentrations of plasma UA. Plasma from fourteen participants (age 23 ± 2 y, ht 1.74 ± 0.08 m, wt 80.9 ± 19.7, BMI 26.5 ± 5.5 kg/㎡) was collected and tested. Each participant completed a randomized crossover, counterbalanced control study. This trial consisted of a 20-minute resting period lying supine that was followed by 30 minutes of either sauna heat therapy (SAU: ~132°F/~56°C), cycling exercise (EXER: ~40-50% HRR), or upright sitting that served as the control (CON: control). At the completion of the trial, participants completed a 60-minute recovery period lying supine. Plasma samples were taken both pre- and post-completion of each activity for research evaluation.  Cycling exercise was the only treatment to increase UA concentration, EXER (pre 3.52 ± 0.16 vs post 3.67 ± 0.15; P = 0.03), SAU (pre 3.70 ± 0.17 vs post 3.73 ± 0.15; P = 0.85), CON (pre 3.90 ± 0.18 vs post 3.74 ± 0.14; P = 0.11). Cycling for 30 minutes (40-50% HRR) was enough to increase UA levels. This is in accordance with previous studies showing that exercise increases vasopressin which concentrates plasma UA; in addition exercise results in lactic acid build up that prevents plasma UA excretion. Sauna heat therapy for 30 min at ~132°F/~56°C  did not affect plasma UA levels. Longer exposure or/and intensity may be required to observe noticeable changes in this marker.

Validity and Reliability of Heart Rate Measurements and Energy Expenditure by Bicep Worn Polar Verity During Light Resistance Training

Brynlie Ellingford, Southern Utah University

Faculty Mentor: Marcus Lawrence, Southern Utah University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Despite the prevalence of wearable technology devices that claim to track various aspects of exercise, like heart rate (HR) or energy expenditure (EE), few companies have independently had their products tested. Thus, there is a need to measure validity and reliability of wearable technology devices in any situation a consumer may use them, like aerobic or resistance exercise training. PURPOSE: To determine the validity and reliability of the bicep worn Polar Verity in measuring average and maximal HR and estimated EE during light circuit resistance training. METHODS: Twenty subjects (n=10 female and male; age: 23.27.7 years; height: 169.711.1; weight: 76.315.7 kg) completed this study. Bicep worn Polar Verity device was evaluated, along with the Polar H10 chest strap and Cosmed K5 portable metabolic unit as the criterion devices for average HR and EE, respectively. Subjects completed 4 circuits of 4 exercises (front squat, reverse lunge, push-ups, and shoulder press) using dumbbells at a light intensity with 1 set of 10 repetitions per exercise, 30 seconds rest between exercises, and 1-1.5 min. rest between circuits. Data were analyzed for validity (Mean Absolute Percent Error [MAPE] and Lin’s Concordance Coefficient [CCC]) and reliability (Coefficient of Variation [CV]), with predetermined thresholds of MAPE&lt;10%, CCC&gt;0.70, and CV&lt;10%. A paired t-test was used to determine differences (p&lt;0.05). RESULTS: Polar Verity was significantly (p&lt;0.0001) different than the Cosmed K5 for EE in kcals (46.4±16.5 versus 20.3±5.5 kcals, respectively) with a MAPE of 503.7%, Lin’s Concordance of -0.00, and CV of 12.2%. Conversely, the Polar Verity was not significantly (p&gt;0.05) different than the Polar H10 for either average HR (127.4±19.2 versus 128.9±19.0 bpm, respectively) or maximal HR (145.7±19.1 versus 145.8±18.2 bpm, respectively). Further, for average HR and maximal HR the Polar Verity MAPE was 7.0% and 5.7%, respectively, Lin’s Concordance was 0.98 and 0.98, respectively, and CV was 0.6% and 0.5%, respectively. CONCLUSION: The bicep-worn Polar Verity was valid and reliable for average HR and maximal HR, but was neither valid or reliable for estimated EE during light resistance training. Consumers should be aware of the energy expenditure limitation of this bicep worn device when performing resistance training.


Fat-Free Mass Index (FFMI) of University Club Sport Athletes
Alyssa Evans, Utah State University

Faculty Mentor: Dale Wagner, Utah State University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

ALYSSA EVANS, DALE R. WAGNER, SARA HARPER, STEVEN SPENCER, EDWARD M. HEATH USU Body Composition Laboratory; Kinesiology and Health Science; Utah State University; Logan, UTAHCategory: Undergraduate. Fat-free mass includes the body’s water, organs, bone, and muscle content. Fat-free mass index (FFMI) is calculated as FFM/height2, and it helps indicate the body’s muscle development and can help prevent injury. PURPOSE: The objective of this study was to compare measured FFMI between university club athletes within their sport. METHODS:  Multicomponent (4C) model body composition using the Bod Pod to measure body volume, dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) to measure bone mineral content, and bioimpedance spectroscopy (BIS) to measure total body water was used. Multicomponent methods: evaluation of new and traditional soft tissue mineral models by in vivo neutron activation analysis. RESULTS: Data from 118 club sport athletes (45 female, 73 male) revealed a statistically significant difference (p<.001) between men’s and women’s FFMI. Men (21.2 +/- 2.0 kg/m2) had a significantly greater FFMI (p < .001) compared to women (17.9 +/- 1.7 kg/m2). For sports with more than 1 participant tested, women’s lacrosse had the lowest FFMI (16.7 +/- 1.0 kg/m2) and powerlifting had the greatest FFMI (20.3 +/- 0.2 kg/m2).  For both men and women, the difference in FFMI was significant across sports (p = .001). CONCLUSION: FFMI values generally fell in the same range for athletes within each sport. This can be used to form a database of average FFMI values for university club sports athletes.


Brain Circuit Causing Acquired Primary Insomnia: A Lesion Network Mapping Analysis
Keaton Helquist, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor: Jared Nielsen, Brigham Young University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

BACKGROUND. In patients of a tertiary-level mental healthcare facilities, symptoms of insomnia are prevalent in 78.2% of the population. Additionally, among those who suffer from acquired brain injury, few symptoms are as generally pervasive as that of primary insomnia. Meta-analyses of insomnia patients with fMRI data have failed to identify consistently affected brain regions. Individual studies have suggested several brain regions are involved in insomnia, including the anterior cingulum, orbitofrontal cortex, the insula, caudate nucleus, and the anterior capsula interna. However, few regions have consistently been implicated in the pathophysiology of insomnia. Moreover, little is known regarding the collective brain networks involving insomnia. METHODS. We performed a literature review for case studies of patients presenting with acquired-brain-injury-induced insomnia (N=12). Lesion network mapping analysis (Fox et al., 2018) was performed on the 12 lesions with a large cohort of healthy control resting-state scans (N=1000).  RESULTS. Upon completion of lesion network mapping analysis, all 12 lesions were functionally connected to the medio-dorsal thalamus, which is cortically connected to both the primary (~50%) and premotor cortices (~50%) (Oxford Thalamic Connectivity Probability Atlas). In an analysis comparing the 12 analyzed lesions to a normative database of stroke lesions with a variety of different neurological symptoms, we confirmed that the insomnia patients have a statistically significant difference in functional connectivity to the thalamus. CONCLUSION. Our suggested functional network connectivity of the thalamus in insomnia appears to hint towards a deeper-rooted mechanism in the onset of primary insomnia in addition to previously suggested hyperarousal within cortical regions, and subcortical neuropathologies. Further research regarding thalamic activity in psychiatric patients suffering from insomnia is required.


Tapering Before NCAA Division I Cross-Country Competition Reduces Plasma HDL-C but Has No Effect on Structural HDL Apolipoproteins
Kamryn Shapiro, Weber State University
Marlene Stephani

Faculty Mentor: David  Alvarez, Weber State University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Exercising has shown to increase HDL-C levels in most populations, however it is uncertain if it has an effect in structural apolipoproteins such as apolipoprotein A1( Apo-A1) expression and secretion. Cross-country athletes undergo a period of tapering before competition resulting in reduced physical activity. The purpose of this study was to determine if the changes in physical activity that cross country athletes experience during the season and in preparation for competition affects their HDL-C. We hypothesize that the tapering period will result in reduced HDL-C and its structural apolipoproteins. Twenty seven D-I cross-country athletes, ages 19 to 25 years old, were followed for one season (four months). Blood was collected at the beginning of the season and analyzed for HDL-C levels through enzymatic spectrophotometry using the Alfa Wasserman Ace Axcel®  biochemistry analyzer. Apo-A1 and Apo-CIII were measured through Luminex® MAGPIX® multiplex assays. Paired-samples t-test comparing the preseason (pre) vs postseason (post) values was performed using IBM® SPSS Statistics 25. HDL-C levels decreased significantly from pre = 64.2 ± 2.7, vs post = 60.7 ± 2.5 mg/dL  p = 0.03. Apo-A1, 92.3 ± 6.5 vs 88.8 ±  6.8, p = 0.23  and Apo-CIII 13.8 ± 0.1 vs 13.3 ± 0.5, p = 0.37 showed no statistical difference from pre vs post. Our study shows that HDL-C levels are decreased by a period of time as short as 4 months. However, we did not observe a change on apolipoproteins A1 or CIII. These findings suggest that although exercise can modulate lipidation of the HDL particle through the process of cholesterol esterification in the reverse cholesterol transportation (RCT),  Apo-A1 expression and secretion may be modulated independently of this process as we did not observe any changes in apolipoprotein concentrations.


Do Cross Sectional Area and Muscle Stiffness of the Gastrocnemius Muscle of Senior Athletes Correlate with Each Other
Aunika John, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor: Brent Feland, Brigham Young University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

BACKGROUND: The development of shear-wave elastography (SWE) creates a way to quantify the stiffness or elasticity of muscle tissue. SWE data relating to a limited number of specific muscle injuries, overuse, or pathologies currently exist in the literature, however, understanding of normal relationships of muscle due to individual physiological characteristics is lacking. Studies investigating changes in SWE related to age, height, weight and CSA in the gastrocnemius are very limited, but necessary to establish an understanding of “normal state” for the gastrocnemius muscle. PURPOSE: This study aimed to determine how cross sectional area (CSA) and SWE correlate with each other, in both the medial and lateral gastrocnemius muscles of active older athletes participating in the Huntsman World Senior Games. METHODS: Data was collected from 109 volunteers (participants in the Huntsman World Senior Games) in St. George, Utah, 2022.  All subjects (62 females: mean age = 64.1 ± 6.5 yrs, Ht = 165.6 ± 7.9 cm, Wt= 67.2±12.8 kg;  47 males:  mean age = 68.9 ± 8.5 yrs, Ht = 177.7 ± 8.9 cm, Wt= 79.9±14 kg) signed an approved consent form and then lay prone on a treatment table for ultrasonic measurement of both CSA and SWE of both heads of the gastrocnemius. ANALYSIS:  All data were analyzed using JMP ver16.2 with a Pearson product pairwise correlation and a multiple regression analysis to determine the effect of age, height, wt and CSA on SWE of the LG and MG independently.  Data were normally distributed, not requiring transformation. RESULTS  & CONCLUSION: Stiffness as measured by SWE does not significantly correlate with CSA for either the MG (p=0.3954, r=-0.0822) or LG (p=0.2351, r=-0.1147).  However, age (p=0.0064), height (p=0.0027) and CSA(p=0.0319) are variables with a significant effect on MG SWE, while only height (p=0.0178) is a significant variable impacting LG SWE.  So although CSA and SWE do not directly correlate, CSA, age and height have some significant effect over MG SWE, while height only demonstrated a significant effect on LG SWE. The results of this study are limited to the gastrocnemius and further research should observe if similar results exist in a more sedentary population as well as a younger population to help determine normal expected values for SWE.



Horizontal Gene Transfer by Transformation
Brooklyn Jones, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor: Bradford Berges, Brigham Young University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Staphylococcus aureus (SA) is a pathogenic bacterium which affecting humans, primarily affecting the blood, lungs, and soft tissues. There is no vaccine available for SA and it has already developed antibiotic resistance (AR) to many antibiotics, making it extremely deadly. SA can gain AR by obtaining a resistance gene from another organism, however, the process of such is not well understood. The purpose of this project is to elucidate the process of gaining AR genes in SA strains. We hypothesize that AR is conferred through horizontal gene transfer (HGT) because of the exchange of eDNA in the biofilm, an exterior film protecting the cell. We propose that by adding antibiotics (AB) to biofilms, it will provide insight into the mechanisms of transformation HGT in SA. While AB can increase eDNA concentration in a biofilm, they can also cause more pores in the cell wall; either or both scenarios can increase the probability of transformation. We expect only cell wall synthesis inhibitors (oxacillin and vancomycin) to increase HGT via increasing the permeability of the cell while any AB causing cell lysis (erythromycin and tetracycline) could increasing HGT via increasing the eDNA concentration. In our project, we will control for the addition of eDNA due to either AB and/or the creation of porous cells which naturally take up eDNA more easily by adding DNase to AB-treated biofilms. Using this method, eDNA concentration does not increase but cell retain the ability to create pores. This project will use pre-existing protocol to co-culture P12 (meat isolate) and USA400 (human isolate) which have complementary AB profiles in AR profiles between the two strains. After co-culturing the isolates in a single biofilm, adding the treatment antibiotics and DNase, and select for double-AB resistant colonies by plating them on AB plates, we expect to see HGT.


Measured Thoracic Gas Volume Versus Two Equations
Jacob McBride, Utah State University

Faculty Mentor: Dale Wagner, Utah State University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Body composition, or one’s fat mass relative to total mass, is important to a person’s health and physical performance. One method to measure body composition is the Bod Pod air displacement plethysmograph. To determine body volume from the Bod Pod, thoracic gas volume (TGV), or the volume of air in the lungs during a normal breath, must be measured or predicted. PURPOSE: The intent of this study was to compare measured TGV to two predictions: one from the Bod Pod (TGVBP) that makes assumptions about functional residual capacity and tidal volume, and one from a recent publication (TGVDucharme) that relies on measures of height and body mass rather than lung volumes. METHODS: Bod Pod data from university club sport athletes participating in a larger study were used. TGV was measured following the Bod Pod manufacturer’s instructions. Comparisons of mean data were made between the measured test and the two predictions with a one-way repeated-measures ANOVA. Individual error scores were evaluated with Bland-Altman plots. RESULTS: Data from 26 club sport athletes (18 male, 8 female) revealed a statistically significant difference (p = .001) between the three TGV measures. The measured TGV (4.108 ± 0.850 L) and TGVDucharme (4.092 ± 0.655 L) were not significantly different from one another (p = .851), but TGVBP (3.724 ± 0.409 L) significantly underestimated the measured TGV (p = .002) and Ducharme’s prediction (p < .001). A clear bias exists for TGVBP (r = -0.799, p < .001), such that the Bod Pod prediction overestimates athletes with a small TGV (< 3.3 L) and underestimates athletes with a large TGV (> 3.3 L). The bias for TGVDucharme is statistically significant (r = -0.460, p = .018), but much smaller than the bias from the Bod Pod prediction. CONCLUSION: When possible, measure TGV. If TGV must be predicted, use the Ducharme prediction rather than the TGV prediction from the Bod Pod.



Indoor/Outdoor Ozone in Evaporative Cooler vs Central Air Homes in Utah County
Braedon  Tarone, Brigham Young University
Seth Van Roosendaal, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor: James Johnston, Brigham Young University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Ozone is known to be higher in the summer months when sunlight, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) readily react: Sunlight + NOx + VOCs = Ozone. Exposure to ozone in concentrations higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) of 70 ppb can lead to adverse health effects such as reduced lung capacity, exacerbated chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, bronchitis or heart disease. Little is known regarding the effects of various residential cooling methods on indoor ozone concentrations. We recruited homes in Utah County that use either central air conditioning (AC) or evaporative coolers (EC) during summer months. Gilian 113 Low Flow samplers were used to sample air over a 24-hour period through coated nitrite filters. Nitrite (NO2) on the filter reacts with any ozone (O3) present to form nitrate (NO3) which can then be measured to obtain an accurate ozone air concentration: NO2 + O3 = NO3 + O2. Two ozone samples were collected at each home with one indoors and one outdoors. Monitors were placed in a main living area of the home away from vents, air intakes, and main entrances. 30 samples were taken inside (n=15) and outside (n=15) AC homes. Additionally, 14 samples were taken inside (n=7) and outside (n=7) EC homes. Samples were analyzed at SGS Galson Labs according to OSHA Method ID-214 to determine total concentration of ozone on each filter. Mean concentrations outside AC homes were 0.036 ppm. Mean concentrations inside and outside EC homes were 0.020 and 0.034 ppm, respectively. The indoor to outdoor (I/O) ratio of mean concentrations for EC homes was 0.596. Samples taken indoors at AC homes were below the limit of detection (LOD), therefore the I/O ratio for AC homes could not be calculated. Only 1 sample taken inside an AC home contained a concentration above the LOD, which was labeled an outlier and removed. Additionally, data from samples taken outdoors were compared to outdoor ozone concentrations measured at collection sites operated by the Utah Division of Air Quality. Homes provide a protective envelope from exposure to outdoor air pollution. All outdoor ozone concentrations were higher than indoor concentrations, suggesting both AC and EC homes provide this protection. However, our data suggests AC homes provide more protection than EC homes, as samples containing ozone concentrations below the LOD taken from inside AC homes are significantly lower than the calculated mean concentration inside EC homes.



Indoor/Outdoor Ozone in Evaporative Cooler vs Central Air Homes in Utah County
Seth Van Roosendaal, Brigham Young University
Braedon Tarone

Faculty Mentor: Jim Johnston, Brigham Young University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Ozone is known to be higher in the summer months when sunlight, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) readily react: Sunlight + NOx + VOCs = Ozone. Exposure to ozone in concentrations higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) of 70 ppb can lead to adverse health effects such as reduced lung capacity, exacerbated chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, bronchitis or heart disease. Little is known regarding the effects of various residential cooling methods on indoor ozone concentrations. We recruited homes in Utah County that use either central air conditioning (AC) or evaporative coolers (EC) during summer months. Gilian 113 Low Flow samplers were used to sample air over a 24-hour period through coated nitrite filters. Nitrite (NO2) on the filter reacts with any ozone (O3) present to form nitrate (NO3) which can then be measured to obtain an accurate ozone air concentration: NO2 + O3 = NO3 + O2. Two ozone samples were collected at each home with one indoors and one outdoors. Monitors were placed in a main living area of the home away from vents, air intakes, and main entrances. 30 samples were taken inside (n=15) and outside (n=15) AC homes. Additionally, 14 samples were taken inside (n=7) and outside (n=7) EC homes. Samples were analyzed at SGS Galson Labs according to OSHA Method ID-214 to determine total concentration of ozone on each filter. Mean concentrations outside AC homes were 0.036 ppm. Mean concentrations inside and outside EC homes were 0.020 and 0.034 ppm, respectively. The indoor to outdoor (I/O) ratio of mean concentrations for EC homes was 0.596. Samples taken indoors at AC homes were below the limit of detection (LOD), therefore the I/O ratio for AC homes could not be calculated. Only 1 sample taken inside an AC home contained a concentration above the LOD, which was labeled an outlier and removed. Additionally, data from samples taken outdoors were compared to outdoor ozone concentrations measured at collection sites operated by the Utah Division of Air Quality. Homes provide a protective envelope from exposure to outdoor air pollution. All outdoor ozone concentrations were higher than indoor concentrations, suggesting both AC and EC homes provide this protection. However, our data suggests AC homes provide more protection than EC homes, as samples containing ozone concentrations below the LOD taken from inside AC homes are significantly lower than the calculated mean concentration inside EC homes.



The Effect of Gender on Cross Sectional Area and Shear Wave Elastography of the Gastrocnemius in Senior Athletes.
Matt Nelson, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor: Brent Feland, Brigham Young University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

BACKGROUND: Shear wave elastography (SWE) is a novel use of ultrasound that can help measure the intrinsic stiffness of a muscle. Intrinsic stiffness refers to an ability, or inability, to change shape when placed under a load. For muscles, changes in stiffness can occur frequently under normal circumstances (contraction, stretch, warm-up).  Recent studies have reported changes in stiffness in response to heavy use or injury which may make SWE a useful measure for tracking or predicting muscle recovery rates.  However, not enough data is available to establish what “normal” is for individual muscles or groups.  Furthermore, distinctions of muscle stiffness relating to age, gender, and activity level remains an area of SWE research that is lacking. PURPOSE: This study aimed to determine how gender affects cross sectional area (CSA) and SWE of both the medial and lateral heads of the gastrocnemius muscle of the dominant leg in active older athletes participating in the Huntsman World Senior Games. METHODS: Data was collected from 109 volunteers (participants in the Huntsman World Senior Games) in St. George, Utah, 2022.  All subjects (62 females: mean age = 64.1 ± 6.5 yrs, Ht = 165.6 ± 7.9 cm, Wt= 67.2±12.8 kg;  and 47 males:  mean age = 68.9 ± 8.5 yrs, Ht = 177.7 ± 8.9 cm, Wt= 79.9±14 kg) signed an approved consent form and then lay prone on a treatment table for ultrasonic measurement of both CSA and SWE of both heads of the gastrocnemius with the ankle placed in a neutral position. ANALYSIS:  All data were analyzed using JMP ver.16.2 with an Analysis of Variance for comparing both CSA and SWE between males and females for MG and LG independently. student t-tests were also used to confirm and determine differences.  Data were normally distributed not requiring transformation. RESULTS  & CONCLUSION: CSA was significantly greater in males than females for both MG (p=0.0131) and LG (p=<.0001).  Stiffness as measured by SWE is significantly greater in the MG than LG (p<.0001) for both males and females, however, the effect of gender is not significant for SWE values for either the MG (p=0.5182) or LG (p=0.3822). These results are significant because they show both the expected outcome of a difference in CSA for muscle size between genders, but that intrinsic stiffness of muscle does not appear to be affected by gender.  The current population studied was an active elderly population regularly involved in sports.  Further studies on a more sedentary age-matched population would help determine if intrinsic stiffness is similar regardless of activity level.  Lack of a gender effect would better help define what stiffness of “normal” muscle would be to better delineate stiffness values that are both abnormal and predictive from a rehabilitation standpoint.



Genome-wide CRISPR-Cas9 Screen Used to Build a Guide-RNA Library for Genetic Screens of INS-1 Cells Used Under Conditions of Glucolipotoxicity, Proliferation, and Insulin Secretion.
Spencer Paulsen, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor: Jeffery Tessem, Brigham Young University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Today approximately 537 million adults are living with diabetes. Worse still is that this figure is expected to rise to about 640 million by the year 2030.  Factors like metabolic stress drive the development of this condition. The loss of functional β-cell mass due to these stressors is linked to the pathogenesis of diabetes. There are multiple gene expression changes that occur as a result of these stressors. The studying of these genetic variations in β-cells can lead to a greater understanding of diabetes as well as potential cures. CRISPR-Cas9 is a powerful tool for creating gene knockouts for the purpose of studying heterogeneity. As a result, we created a CRISPR guide-RNA library for the rat pancreatic islet β-cell insulinoma (INS-1) cell line. This library will be used to perform genome-wide forward genetic screens under conditions of glucolipotoxicity, proliferation, and insulin secretion of all expressed genes in the INS-1 cell line. Here we present the state of our guide-RNA library development and forward progressive screens.



Genetic Modification of NMAD-1 Demethylase in C. elegans to Affect Longevity
Harlan Stevens, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor: Steven Johnson, Brigham Young University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Almost all medical research focuses on extending human life. Recent studies into different aging mechanisms have revealed a new potential field of research for increasing lifespan: changing epigenetic marks. Histone and DNA methylation marks can repress or increase gene expression. As organisms age, alterations occur in epigenetic marks that control the chromatin state of DNA which exposes formerly protected DNA to genetic instability. A recent study identified 30 previously untested candidate genes in C. elegans (a model organism) that could affect longevity. Among those, a gene previously associated with DNA repair in meiosis, demethylase nmad-1 stands out. While recent research has found that other demethylases in C. elegans impact aging, N6 methylation regulation genes, such as nmad-1, have not been experimentally linked to aging. Our previous research proved that knocking down nmad-1 expression through RNA interference (RNAi) significantly decreased life span. We hypothesize that overexpression of nmad-1 using a ubiquitous sur-5 promoter will increase longevity. Research into nmad-1’s effect on lifespan could link N6 methylation to new biological pathways. Nmad-1 has a close mammalian homolog ALKBH4, so research based on C. elegans demethylase could later be used in novel therapeutic approaches to ameliorate age-related health conditions in humans.



Minute by Minute Concentrations of PM2.5 in Homes with Evaporative Coolers versus Central Air Conditioners
Pablo Harline, Brigham Young University
Selah Willis, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor: James Johnston, Brigham Young University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Evaporative Coolers (swamp coolers) function by passing outdoor air over a water-saturated pad. The pad water then evaporates, cooling the air before it is directed into the home. Central air conditioning cools the home using recirculated indoor air. In this study, we explore and compare the quantity of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) that enters a home being cooled by a swamp cooler versus central air conditioning. PM2.5 is dangerous to the human respiratory system and is linked to lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and asthma. Using an Optical Particle Counter (OPC), we collected the PM2.5 concentrations every minute over a 24-hour period in 15 central air and 7 swamp cooler homes as well as outdoor PM2.5 concentrations at the same locations. All measurements were done from June-September 2022 in Utah County. All participants were asked to behave as they normally would with the exception of any activities that produce indoor particulate matter (cooking, vacuuming, vaping, etc.). Using the uncorrected photometer data, the ratio of indoor to outdoor (I/O) revealed significant differences between the PM2.5 concentration of homes with different types of air conditioners. Central air homes had an average I/O at 0.64, and standard deviation of 0.45. Swamp cooler homes, on the other hand, had an average I/O 0.90 and standard deviation of 0.18. These results meet our expectations due to the mechanical properties of each type of air conditioner: Swamp coolers bring in outdoor air, and central air systems filter and recirculate indoor air with less outdoor air infiltration. We are in the process of further analyzing the minute-by-minute data to discover any meaningful temporal patterns. The study confirms previous research that residents of swamp cooler homes will be exposed to higher levels of PM2.5. Our findings were corroborated by 24-hour PM2.5 filter samples collected alongside the OPC readings. By examining hours with high levels of exposure, we hope to recommend interventions to decrease exposure to PM2.5 in swamp cooler homes.



Bulimia Nervosa and Treatment-Related Disparities: A Review
Kim Wilson, Utah Tech University

Faculty Mentor: Robert Kagabo, Utah Tech University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Bulimia Nervosa (BN) is a type of eating disorder disease which usually manifests between adolescence and early adulthood. The median age of onset is 12 with an estimated lifetime prevalence of 0.9%. BN is characterized by individuals’ excessive eating of large amounts of food such as binge eating. The individuals then follow the eating episodes by engaging in unusual compensatory behavior such as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, or excessive exercise in efforts to control weight gain. There are two types of BN, the purging, and the non-purging type. Research shows that approximately 94% of those with BN never seek or delay treatment. While there are available treatments, it is thought that some populations may not have access to such treatments. This study is a review of clinical trials to explore available treatments and related treatment disparities.. Methods. This study followed qualitative review guidelines to review clinical trial studies of BN published between 2010 and 2021. The authors used PubMed and PsychInfo databases to search for articles meeting the inclusion criteria. Search terms included phrases such as, BN treatment, BN and clinical trials, BN and randomized clinical trials, or BN diagnosis and treatment. Any studies that did not involve clinical trials and treatment of BN were excluded from the review. Results. Following the inclusion criteria, 15 studies were included in this review study. Most of the reviewed studies had their sample sizes between 80 and 100% female with age range between 18 and 60 years old. Sample sizes were mostly between 80 and 100% white. Treatment practices included both pharmacological and psychosocial interventions. Majority of the psychosocial interventions were, cognitive behavior therapy and limited motivational interviewing. Conclusion. While all in the general population face risks of developing BN, the reviewed research show that certain groups of populations face disparities in BN treatment. The 12-17, and older than 60 age groups are mostly excluded from research. Males and racial minorities are also excluded. Researchers and practitioners need to include these vulnerable groups to improve treatment-related disparities among individuals with BN.


Evaluating the Association between Air Quality and Neurological Sequelae of Covid-19
Kennedy Zinn, Utah Valley University

Faculty Mentor: Chris Anderson, Utah Valley University

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

Long haul COVID is a pervasive and pernicious COVID-19 sequelae and affects every organ system, including the central nervous system. Neurological symptoms can last over a year, and include brain fog, chronic fatigue, dyspnea, mood dysregulation and headaches. Anosmia, for example, is the loss of partial or total smell and is a common symptom cited in acute and post COVID-19 infection. Current research surrounding the etiology of anosmia in COVID-19 cites olfactory epithelium damage, leading to neuronal death of olfactory receptors. Such damage is theorized to allow the virus to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and lead to reduced cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) drainage via the cribriform plate. Reduced efficiency of cerebrospinal fluid is speculated to result in a decrease in CSF production and turnover in order to maintain appropriate intracranial pressure (ICP). This compensatory response can have a cascading effect on the entire central nervous system, particularly the meninges. Such etiology would allow for persistent neurological impairments, even in the absence of virus detection. Current research of anosmia also cites a relation between air pollution with olfactory impairment and neurodegenerative disease pathology. Although the mechanisms are unclear, the theorized etiology of Covid-19-induced anosmia is remarkably similar to the etiology of anosmia in relation with air pollution. Following IRB approval, we will analyze existing data from approximately 40 patients who completed neurological symptom questionnaires at a health clinic. Historical Air Quality Index (hAQI) of patient hometowns, collected by and IQAir, will be tested for associations with self-report symptoms. Data analysis is planned for early January. We hypothesize that patients from areas of lower air quality will report more severe symptoms of long-haul Covid. Findings may provide insight into long Covid and other neurological pathology.



The more you know: Knowledge about gender and sexual minority experiences as a tool to improve inclusive health care practices
Natalia Garrido, University of Utah

Faculty Mentor: Claudia Geist, University of Utah

SESSION D (3:30-5:00PM)

In current literature, healthcare providers’ attitudes, the healthcare system, and biased health curriculums are some of the main bridges between creating inclusive, gender-affirming healthcare for sexual and gender-diverse (SGD) people. For SGD people, many unnecessary barriers exist that prevent them from accessing health care and receiving quality affirming care. The burden of overcoming these barriers must not be mostly placed on SGD people, but rather on current and future healthcare providers. Education on SGD issues for undergraduate pre-health students is a first step toward shifting biased education and improving inclusive affirming patient care. In our previous research, we found that pre-health students express uncertainty and ambivalence on some issues related to sexual and gender diversity. Similarly, in other studies, medical and nursing students have expressed not having enough education and skills on LGBT and sexual health. Most health profession curriculums provide few hours of low-quality SGD health. Failure to understand and empathize with sex and gender differences and the interconnections of SGD identities and health have left the SGD community at risk for life-threatening and chronic health conditions. In response to the concerns and uncertainties about quality SGD education, I plan to cultivate a digital infographic booklet that can be readily accessible for pre-health students at the University of Utah that focus on gender, sex, and sexual orientation. Initially, the resource will help define gender and sexual identities. Pre-health students will also learn about health disparities, social determinants of health, minority stress, and social safety in order to understand SGD people’s sensitivity to healthcare and accessibility. Additionally, many pre-health pathways recommend patient exposure, so the source will also guide students on how to make social safety a tool for making SGD people more comfortable and safer to express their identities.


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Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research 2023 - Program Copyright © 2023 by Office of Undergraduate Research is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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