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Ouachita Baptist University
Biology

Undergraduate research is a key part of the Ouachita Biology experience.  From figuring out how to grow plants in space to learning about the cell cycle through studying bioluminescent tumor growth in mice; from using transgenic tobacco plants to learn about cell death pathways to studying trophic relationships in aquatic ecosystems, we have it in the Ouachita Biology department.

 

The Development of Arabidopsis in Altered Environmental Conditions

The growth of plants in outer space will be dependent on how plants respond to altered atmospheric pressure, gravity, and modified light. The purpose of Dr. Jim Taylor’s research is to further investigate the development of Arabidopsis plants at lower atmospheric pressure and distorted gravity by using a clinostat inside of a hypobaric chamber. These studies will give more insight to how plants develop at lower pressure and in altered gravity which will give a better understanding to how plants may develop during long term space travel.

 

Dr. Nathan Reyna, Dustin Howard, Charles Hunter, and Dr. Jim Taylor at NASA.

 

 

 

 

Cannabinoids as Novel Therapeutics for Pediatric Cancers

Ewing’s Sarcoma is a pediatric bone cancer that is highly aggressive, leading to a five-year survival rate of only 30% even with multi-modal treatment protocols.  Improved therapeutic options are desperately needed.  Dr. Lori Hensley’s research has focused on the ability of non-psychoactive cannabinoids to induce death and inhibit metastases in cells from members of the Ewing’s sarcoma family of tumors and other solid pediatric cancers.  Our data demonstrate these compounds can successfully kill Ewing’s sarcoma cells and related tumor cells in vitro through the induction of apoptosis. Our data further suggest we can limit the migration of tumor cells and endothelial cells (required for new blood vessel formation to feed the tumors), potentially reducing their ability to spread throughout the body.  In order to test the efficacy of our drugs in a more realistic model of human cancer, we developed a novel bioluminescent mouse model of Ewing’s sarcoma in which engineered tumor cells are injected into the tibiae of mice, and the growth of  tumors in control and treated mice can be tracked using specific imaging techniques.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Identification of the expression patterns of candidate apoptosis genes in transgenic tobacco plants

Programmed cell death (PCD) is an essential cellular process characterized by cell shrinkage, nuclear condensation and fragmentation that leads to the selective elimination of cells and has been reported to play a major role in cystic fibrosis, oncogenesis and other disease occurrences.  There appears to be some evolutionarily conserved signaling pathways for an apoptotic-like programmed cell death in plants.  Dr. Nathan Reyna’s research uses a tobacco plant model to identify new genes associated with oxidative stress and apoptosis.

 

Dexter Barksdale and Meg Coffman assessing the stress level of tobacco plants.