Research symposium brings in students from five universities


Clayton Yates gives a presentation on cancer cells.

TUSKEGEE, Ala. (June 28, 2013) — Two former students who won a grant to host a conference at Tuskegee University saw their vision realized today. The 2013 Southern Cell Biology Research Symposium drew students from five universities together for research presentations, poster projects and to share career information. Other than Tuskegee, students from Alabama State, Auburn, and Morehouse universities and the University of Alabama participated in the symposium held in Patterson Hall.

Recent IBS Ph.D. program graduate, Shaniece Theodore, and Shamima Nasrin, an alumna who graduated with a B.S. in biology and is now pursuing post-graduate studies at Auburn University, won a grant from the American Society For Cell Biology to create and fund the symposium. Theodore said two of the reasons she felt it would be beneficial to hold the symposium were to aid in promoting collaboration with other universities and expose undergraduate students to science career options. Theodore, a native of St. Croix, Virgin Islands, said many students don’t realize that research is not the only choice available for a career in science.

“There’s a world of things I could do in science with my Ph.D.,” said Theodore who teaches cell biology and genetics at Georgia Perimeter College in Atlanta.

There were several presentations on cancer and cell biology throughout the all-day event including a detailed synopsis of the research work of the Tuskegee University Cancer Center. Clayton Yates, an associate professor in the Department of Biology, gave a talk on identifying biological markers of aggressive prostate cancer cells and the impact of these cells in black male patients. Yates said understanding how cancer cells develop the ability to metastasize is important in learning how to treat the disease.

For example, the presence or lack of two proteins, Kaiso and Micro RNA 152, are indicators of genes that drive aggressive tumors and can determine how difficult the cancer will be to treat. Lack of Micro RNA 152 means the tumor cells will be hard to treat. However, the presence of Kaiso in the cancer cells is an indicator of an aggressive prostate cancer. Yates said Kaiso is often more prevalent in the tumor cells of black patients with the disease than their white counterparts. Yates said the proteins could be inhibited with drug treatment currently in development.

“Most currently available chemo therapies target cancer cells; they don’t specifically target genes that promote cancer cells,” Yates said. “Our goal in lab is rational drug design. First identifying what’s important then targeting what’s important.”

Presentation slide at symposium.

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