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Student Spotlight|Graduate Neuroscience Program

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Eileen Marks

Fox Lab

Eileen Marks completed her Masters research project in the laboratory of Dr. Jonathan Fox.  During this time she gained experience in a number of techniques including confocal microscopy, stereology and protein analysis by Western blotting.  She maintained her own colony of HD mice and also undertook all the genotyping.  Her efforts will lead to authorship on two papers currently in preparation.  After completing her degree in summer 2011 she was hired as an Assistant Research Scientist in the laboratory of Dr. Matthew McEchron, also at the University of Wyoming, where she is studying how early life iron deficiency affects brain development.  She eventually plans to attend graduate school to complete a PhD in neuroscience.

Eileen's Thesis Project

The goal of my master's thesis research project was to investigate the role of altered brain iron homeostasis in a genetic mouse model Huntington's disease (HD).   In aim 1 I determined the age of onset of iron dysregulation in the R6/2 HD mouse model in relationship to the onset of clinical deterioration.  In aim 2 I analyzed the expression of a number of iron homeostatic proteins in HD mouse brain and used this information to develop a model of how mutant huntingtin protein expression results in iron dysregulation.  In aim 3 I expressed an iron-binding protein in mouse HD brain by lentiviral-mediated expression then studied the effect on disease outcomes.  Taken together, my findings support a role of iron toxicity in the pathogenesis of HD.  During my time in the laboratory of Dr. Fox I also assisted with a project studying the effect of selenium supplementation in HD mice.

Confocal image 

Altered expression of an iron homeostatic protein in the R6/2 mouse model of Huntington's disease.  In aim 2 of my project I evaluated the expression of a number of iron homeostatic proteins in the brains of HD transgenic and wild-type litter-mates by confocal microscopy and Western blot analysis.  I used the findings to develop a model of how mutant huntingtin expression leads to brain iron dysregulation in HD.  The representative confocal image shown illustrates one of our significant findings from aim 2.  Red=DRAQ5 nucleic acid stain; green= iron homeostatic protein.

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