Anticipated Graduation date: May 2022
Research PI: Dr. Daniela Zarnescu
LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maria-macias-a883b2204
Research Topic: In the Zarnescu Lab we use Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) as a model to study amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). TAR DNA Binding Protein (TDP-43), an RNA binding protein, has been found in pathological aggregates of >97% of ALS cases. We overexpressed TDP-43 in Drosophila motor neurons which recapitulates several features of ALS such as formation of cytoplasmic aggregates, locomotor deficits, abnormalities in the ventral nerve cord (VNCs), and reduced lifespan. We co-express a protein called Phosphofructokinase (PFK), which has been shown to have neuroprotective effects in ALS. We study the mechanisms by which PFK could be neuro-protective using the TDP-43 model of ALS. My project focuses on studying the mechanism by which overexpression PFK, the rate-limiting enzyme in glycolysis, could be neuroprotective in ALS. The lab had previously shown that upregulation of glycolysis by overexpressing PFK rescues some of the ALS phenotypes. Pyruvate, the end product of glycolysis has been shown to have antioxidant properties by scavenging Reactive oxygen species (ROS) in colorectal cancer cells. The objective of my work has been to study if overexpression of PFK mitigates oxidative stress in our Drosophila model of ALS.
Why Are you an MCB Ambassador? I was motivated to become an MCB ambassador due to my experiences in college as a first generation college student and woman of color. I believed that I could help relate to future wildcats by sharing the triumphs and troubles that I went through. I hoped that through sharing my experiences those who could relate would be motivated to join MCB. I know that I looked for students who looked like me when I attended U of A events and I wanted to become that person for others.
What makes MCB great? MCB is awesome in part because of the people, everyone is welcoming and willing to help. There is a strong sense of community within the students, especially those who are in your cohort. MCB, and the people apart of it, allow a university which is as big as the U of A to feel like a small community. But the people are only a part of it, the opportunities which you can come across as an MCB student are endless. MCB can lead into a number of different paths for future education or careers. While in college you're able to come across opportunities such as clubs, organizations, internships, student jobs and research.
What are your hobbies and interests? Outside of lab and school I like to bake, read, go horseback riding, dance, and learn as much as I can about anything and everything.
What outreach or service projects are you involved in?
What honors or awards have you received?
Favorite Quote: "Sí, se puede"