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From Undergraduate Research to Published Scientific Article

Former student Stacie Wood was the driving force behind recent publication

In the fight against antibiotic resistance, Professor Heyl-Clegg's group recently published a paper that highlights some compounds that may pave the road toward new drugs that attack the bacterial cell membrane. Several of the designed peptides were found to have greater selectivity for bacteria over host cells while maintaining antibacterial potency, making them promising candidates for therapeutics with fewer side effects. This publication was a true team effort and the culmination of several students' research projects, but the real driving force behind it was former EMU student Stacie Wood, who earned her first author rights in many ways.

Stacie had been an undergraduate researcher in the Heyl-Clegg group and Stacie Woodreturned to EMU to pursue her Master's degree in Biology (as an undergraduate, she had been a Chemistry/Biology double major). She inquired as to what progress had been made on the antimicrobial peptide project, and when the reply was that there were still a few assays that needed to be developed and implemented to make the work publishable, she suggested that maybe this could be the focus of her Master's project. She then jumped in with enthusiasm, reading published papers in the literature and developing protocols in consultation with Professor Heyl-Clegg in Chemistry and Professor Vandenbosch in Biology, making this a genuine interdisciplinary affair. Stacie worked all semester to fine tune the antibacterial and hemolytic assays which would test the effectiveness of the peptides against gram-positive and gram-negative strains of bacteria and determine whether they were also damaging to mammalian red blood cells (an unwanted negative side effect). She then tested the back log of peptides made by herself and former students (undergrads Lauren Crisman and Sarah Davis, and Master's student Hareesh Mukkisa) and those being developed and busily synthesized by current students (Master's student Pooja Kanneganti and undergrad Yeji Park, who was also supported by the EMU Undergraduate Research Stimulus Program). Each of those EMU students also performed additional tests on model cell membrane systems after completing their peptide analogues.

After a year of hard work, all of the data was ready to written up and published. Stacie also took the lead on that, putting the work in context by reading papers in the field, and composed much of the first draft in consultation with Professor Heyl-Clegg. Section by section, the tables and figures and paper took form, and after editing and revision, Stacie was involved throughout the submission process. The payoff was the gratification of having her undergraduate and Master's work published (along with the rest of the team), but the learning experience was what she found most valuable, having the opportunity to see a research project through all aspects to completion. A Canadian citizen, Stacie is currently in her first year of medical school in Ontario and her faculty mentor is very proud of her accomplishments.  The reference for the article (and a link to the article) is found below:

"Modified Cysteine-Deleted Tachyplesin (CDT) Analogs as Linear Antimicrobial Peptides: Influence of Chain Length, Positive Charge, and Hydrophobicity on Antimicrobial and Hemolytic Activity" Stacie J. Wood, Yeji A. Park, Naga Pooja Kanneganti, Hareesh Reddy Mukkisa, Lauren L. Crisman, Sarah E. Davis, James L. Vandenbosch, Jamie B. Scaglione, and Deborah L. Heyl (2014), International Journal of Peptide Research and Therapeutics, 20 (4) 519-530.

 - Posted 9/5/2014


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