Undergraduate Researcher Profile: Ashley Cooper, Neurobiology project in Pediatric Population

Brain Tissue AnalysisStudent: Ashley Cooper, Class of 2021, Concentration: Neurobiology and Social Anthropology, Secondary in Global Health and Health Policy
Mentor:  Dr. Stewart Anderson, University of Pennsylvania-Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania
Project title: Immunohistochemical analysis of 22Q11.1 Deletion using GFAP, PV staining

My project involved immunohistological analysis of tissue samples from mice bred with a heterozygous deletion of most of the genes missing in the chromosomal 22q11.12 deletion syndrome. During my research, I was attempting to identify differences between Wild Type (WT) and mutant brain tissue simples in terms of astrocytic activity. I measured astrocytic activity in the tissue samples by first staining one set of sections with Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) antibody, and another set with Parvalbumin (PV) antibody. 

I studied samples in the Somatosensory Cortex 1 (S1) Hippocampal Region for analysis, utilizing Stereo Investigator to count for the number of PV “positive” cells. I also studied samples in the Oriens, Pyramidalus and Radium Regions of the Hippocampus for analysis, first taking live images of the samples in Neurolucidia, and then running ImageJ analysis on each other three aforementioned regions. In addition, I learned how to perform statistical tests to compare data between PV and GFAP.

This project has particular relation to real-life medicine, as recent review papers have demonstrated that about 25% of adolescents with this disorder later develop schizophrenia. My experience researching this summer acquainted me with several laboratory skills which I will use in the future including: neuroanatomy, immunihistochemistry (analysis and process), sample sectioning utilizing a vibratome, mounting. Additionally, this internship will both my academic and career trajectory as I continue to delve into classes about mental illness and neurobiology, with the ultimate goal of becoming an adolescent psychiatrist and global health policy maker/activist on mental health topics.