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Published December 03, 2019
Jacy Busboom, a junior chemical engineering student at the University of Wyoming, recently was honored for her poster at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Annual Student Conference.
Busboom, from Douglas, was awarded second place in the subdivision of food, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. She traveled to the event to compete and accept her award Nov. 11 in Orlando, Fla. Busboom was among almost 700 other students from across the country who competed in the undergraduate poster competition at this year’s conference.
Over the summer, Busboom participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates grant project funded by the National Science Foundation, studying crosstalk between breast cancer cells and adipose stem cells. Her research was primarily conducted under the advisement of Assistant Professor Adam Melvin at Louisiana State University’s (LSU) Cain Department of Chemical Engineering. Her work and research evolved into her poster design, titled “Development of a Novel Microfluid Device to Study Cell to Cell Communication by Dynamic Sampling of Paracrine Factors.”
Breast tumors have a highly diverse cellular makeup that includes cancer cells, endothelial cells, immune cells, fibroblasts, adipocytes and stem progenitors. Cancer researchers have focused heavily on progenitor cells in recent years due to their tendency to differentiate into a specific type of cell, similar to stem cell behavior. The dynamic interactions among these different cell types via paracrine signaling have been shown to lead to cancer progression and drug resistance. Busboom analyzed the interactions between MDA-MB-231 triple-negative breast cancer cells and adipose stem cells, which are derived from fat, to observe the effects of obesity on breast cancer progression.
According to Melvin, the goal of Busboom’s project was to design, fabricate and characterize a new type of microfluidic device to study cell-to-cell communication. The poster was about the development of a novel microfluidic device to allow dynamic samples of paracrine factors during intercellular signaling.
While many cellular co-culture technologies are used in cancer exploration today, most require termination of the experiment before analysis of the extracellular media. There currently are no experimental co-culture approaches capable of dynamic sampling of the extracellular media during an experiment.
Busboom’s project used a combination of computational and experimental approaches to develop a three-channel microfluidic device connected to a peristaltic pump that allows for the long-term co-culture of cancer and stromal cells, coupled with the ability to dynamically sample media to screen for paracrine factors using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, liquid chromatography or mass spectrometry.
“The research presented in this poster could be an important development in cellular co-culture technology,” Busboom says. “In relation to cancer treatment, it could enhance drug development and aid in targeted therapy by enabling the study of interactions between cancer cells and surrounding stromal cells, which affect cancer progression and drug efficacy.”
Co-authors of Busboom’s research include LSU students and faculty members Emmaline Miller, Joshua Clavin, Sharif Rahman, Melvin and Elizabeth Martin.
Busboom recently was appointed as student president of UW’s chapter of AIChE, and she is an advocate for female students pursuing engineering professions. She also is an active member and outreach co-chair for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) at UW. She praises the professional opportunities AIChE and other student organizations create for students studying chemical engineering.
“I have attended the AIChE Annual Student Conference twice now, and it has been an excellent opportunity to find out what research students are conducting across the country,” she says. “It creates a chance to further explore graduate school, learn career skills and develop technical knowledge from experienced engineers. I highly recommend that every AIChE student attend at least once to see the vast opportunities available in chemical engineering.”
Joseph Holles, an associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, is the faculty adviser for the AIChE student chapter at UW and says Busboom’s mentorship with female students and organizational skills have helped her become a strong leader among all her peers.
“Jacy is a true leader, whether by example in her hard work or creating organization so others can contribute their skills,” Holles says. “Along with helping to organize functions and trips for AIChE, she also helped coordinate with our former K-14 outreach program coordinator, Teddi Freedman, to send welcome letters to high school women who had been admitted to college and helped set them up with SWE mentors in their discipline.”
Busboom will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in May 2021 and plans to obtain a Master of Science. Additionally, Busboom will continue to assist her research group through data analysis and publication. They aim to validate the device performance by creating the ability to culture cells for one week. They also will seek to improve the operational setup by 3D printing new media reservoirs and a sterile sampling port, essentially creating a more user-friendly environment.