PIKEVILLE — University of Pikeville biology and chemistry students are tackling research projects that focus on the animal food industry’s use of antibiotics, the survival rate of cancer patients and product information for a new anti-fungal medication.
Students developed research plans, ran test samples and gathered data to support their projects. In addition to searching digital libraries to study the work of other scientists, students tapped into a valuable resource: UPIKE and Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine faculty mentors who guided the research.
Molly Frank of Greensburg, Ky., and Wesley Barnett of Cynthiana, Ky., researched “Synthesis and Characterization of Micronutrient Compounds using FDA Approved Precursors.” Benjamin Clayton, Ph.D., chair of the division of mathematics and natural sciences and assistant professor of chemistry at UPIKE, served as their faculty mentor.
“Our research project revolves around developing a phytobiotic poultry feed additive derived from Bloodroot, a plant native to Eastern Kentucky, to replace the use of antibiotics in chicken feed. For the past several years, antibiotics have not only been used to treat clinically ill broilers and to prevent the onset of future infectious diseases, but they have also been widely used to increase the feed efficiency and growth rate of broiler chickens,” said Frank. “This widespread use of antibiotics in animal feeds is a major contributor to the development of antibiotic resistance in the human population. The plant-derived feed additive that we hope to develop will increase the feed conversion ratio of broiler chickens; thus, improving their growth rate and effectively replacing the use of antibiotics in poultry feed.”
Logan Lucas’ research focused on “Efficacy Testing of a Novel Antifungal Agent.” Daniel Atchley Ph.D., M.S., MT-ASCP, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at KYCOM, served as faculty mentor for the research project.
“I’m researching the efficacy and potency of CelaCare Oral Wash against Candidiasis caused by Candida, a type of yeast. We are running minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) to determine the smallest amount of drug that can be used to inhibit fungi,” said Lucas, of Pikeville, Ky. “Kill-times are being used to determine the effectiveness of the drug to kill the microbes, in this case the fungi, and also show the efficacy by looking at the change in growth curves over different doublings of the MIC. We are testing this oral wash against two products, Nystatin and Fluconazole, that are already out on the market. My research focuses on the anti-fungal portion of this new oral wash.”
Valerie Shaelyn Eversole’s research focused on “A Study of the Anti-tumor Activity of Anacardic Acid.” “I am examining the anti-tumor effect of anacardic acid alone or in combination with known chemotherapeutics gemcitabine and 5-Flourouracil on pancreatic cancer cells,” said Everole. “In our research we use techniques such as cell viability assays and immunostaining. I have also learned how to grow, split and freeze pancreatic cancer cells. The long term goal is to prolong the survival rate of pancreatic cancer patients. I lost my grandmother to pancreatic cancer and would love to help other pancreatic cancer patients live long and get to spend more time with their families.” Eversole, of Hazard, Ky., was mentored by Maiyon Park, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology at KYCOM.
Clayton recognizes the need for more research on an undergraduate level. “This time of unprecedented scientific advancements has led to a need for new training that not only enables students to practice as scientists, but that also fosters innovation, collaboration, teamwork and entrepreneurship. These skills are what most employers seek to find in recent graduates,” said Clayton.
“The most important benefit of collaborating with undergraduates on scientific research projects is that it exemplifies the epitome of current best practices in education and goes beyond being just a problem-based or inquiry-based method of teaching,” said Clayton. “It offers an intellectual edge that emphasizes experimentation and strategic thinking on a broader scale. The net result is we create individuals who are able to take on real world challenges, like finding better chemotherapies and fighting bacterial resistance to antibiotics.”
Other research projects include “Compartmentalization of cIAP1 and cIAP2 During Degradation” by Chris Ward of Pikeville, Ky. He worked with faculty mentor J. Michael Younger, Ph.D., assistant professor of biochemistry at KYCOM.
Dalton Hammond, of Jenkins, Ky., researched “Identifying Signals Responsible for Targeting cIAP1 and cIAP2 to Sub-cellular Compartments” and was also mentored by Younger.
Students presented their research during the ACA fall conference in October in Kingsport, Tenn.
The students were each awarded Lee B. Ledford scholarships by the Appalachian College Association (ACA) which provided a research stipend up to $5,120, including funds to purchase equipment. The Ledford scholarship fund supports research experiences for students attending ACA colleges who graduated from high school or were home schooled in a designated Appalachian or contiguous county as defined by the Appalachian Regional Commission.
JoBeth Bingham, of Barbourville, Ky., received a scholarship from the National Science Foundation to conduct research at the University of Kentucky through a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. Her research focused on purifying and analyzing brain lesions found in Alzheimer’s disease. The purification involved a novel “photoprobe” method for detecting the disease earlier and for developing better therapeutics.