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USCB Research and Scholarship Day

List of Abstracts in the Category of Hypothesis Driven (Total 11)

Abstract ID: 17
Abstract Title: Mathematical model for an outbreak of West Nile Virus including control strategies and seasonality - an ongoing study
Student: Frank Cazales (fcazales@email.sc.edu)
Faculty Mentor: Kasia Pawelek (kpawelek@uscb.edu)
Author List: Frank Cazales
Program: Mathematics and Computational Science
Abstract Category: Hypothesis Driven

Abstract:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a total of 47 states reported West Nile Virus activity in 2017. There have been 2,002 cases in humans with 67% developing a neuroinvasive disease. WNV is a vector-borne pathogen aimed for bird-mosquito-bird cycle throughout small to large regional areas, with humans, horses, and birds as incidental hosts. The Culex pipiens complex is the primary mosquito species associated with underground stormwater systems and primary vectors of WNV in the continental United States. In this study, we designed a mathematical model with seasonality that considers natural factors impacting the Culex pipiens complex populations to introduce the seasonality. We expanded on our previous models to include bird and human populations as well as migration of mosquitoes, adulticides and catch basin treatments. The focus of this ongoing study is to design a mathematical model that takes into account various stages associated with the spread of the disease to model the outbreak and control of WNV. Our model predictions show the populations of mosquitoes throughout the seasons on the surface and underground, the impact of various control strategies, and a scenario of WNV outbreak. Our model predicts that treatment of catch basins and adulticides significantly lower the mosquito population and subsequently the risk of WNV outbreak.

Abstract ID: 33
Abstract Title: Antibiotic-Producing Bacteria Associated with Sharks of St. Helena and Port Royal Sound
Student: Daniel Conrad (dconrad@email.uscb.edu)
Faculty Mentor: Kim Ritchie (kritch@uscb.edu)
Author List: Daniel Conrad, Diego L. Gil‐Agudelo, Kim B. Ritchie
Program: Natural Sciences
Abstract Category: Hypothesis Driven

Abstract:
Elasmobranchs possess the ability to heal quickly from wounds; however, limited research has been done to explore the roll of beneficial bacterial associations in this healing process (Ritchie et al., 2017). Our main objective was to identify antibiotic producing bacteria associated with sharks as a measure of potential beneficial roles. Three Tiger Sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier), two Bull Sharks (Carcharinus leucas), five Blacktip Sharks (Carcharinus limbatus) one Blacknose Shark- (Carcharhinus acronotus) and one Lemon Shark (Negaprion brevirostris) were captured by the use of drumlines and rod and reel in the St. Helena and Port Royal Sound areas off the coast of South Carolina. Bacteria were collected from various areas of the shark using sterile swabs and transferred into Zobell Marine Agar plates followed by incubation at 23 oC for up to 72 hours. Isolates were subcultured to purification and cryopreserved at -80oC. Libraries were UV radiated for two to three hours to kill bacteria and then overlaid with six human and four marine pathogenic bacteria to test antibiotic activity. Pathogens tested included Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis, Enterococcus faecalis, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Methicillin-Sensitive Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA), Vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE), Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Vibrio vulnificus, Vibrio shiloii and Serratia marcescens. Plates were incubated overnight and zones of inhibition were compared and measured. In previous work, Ritchie et al. (2017) showed that up to 21% of cultured bacteria from skates and rays produce antibiotic activity against one or more test strain. In the present study, we show that up to 35% of cultured shark bacteria produce antibiotic activities against one or more test strain.

Abstract ID: 6
Abstract Title: Modeling meningitis
Student: Derek George (Dtgeorge@email.uscb.edu)
Faculty Mentor: Swati DebRoy (sdebroy@uscb.edu)
Author List: Derek George, Sierra Britt
Program: Mathematics and Computational Science
Abstract Category: Hypothesis Driven

Abstract:
Neisseria meningitidis (NM) is a bacterium which causes inflammation of the meninges, that is the membranes surrounding and protecting the brain and spinal cord. Infection of the meninges can lead to an invasive form of bacterial meningitis which can cause death in as little as 5 hours from time of infection. Neisseria meningitidis is part of the Active Bacterial Core (ABC) which initially develops in other parts of the body such as the sinuses, ear canal or throat and then spreads to the meninges. The contagious bacterium can spread quickly in communal environments such as dormitories on a college campus or retirement village. About 20% of survivors retain residual impacts of this infection such as brain damage and hearing loss. rnAmong the ABC’s are Haemophilus influenza, Streptococcus A, Streptococcus B, Neisseria meningitidis and Streptococcus pneumoniae with susceptibility varying among different age groups. Teens and young adults, such as college students are at risk for Neisseria meningitidis and Streptococcus pneumoniae while senior citizens carry an added risk for Haemophilus influenza B and Streptococcus B as well. This project aims to statistically analyze the susceptibility of the 5 ABCs developing into invasive bacterial meningitis caused by NM in different age groups.

Abstract ID: 51
Abstract Title: Structure-Activity Relationship (SAR) Investigation of Monosaccharide Derivatives: Discovery of Biologically Active and Competitive Trypanosoma cruzi Glucokinase Inhibitors
Student: Scott Green (scottbg@email.uscb.edu)
Faculty Mentor: Edward D`Antonio (edantonio@uscb.edu)
Author List: Scott Green, James Lanier, Edward D'Antonio
Program: Natural Sciences
Abstract Category: Hypothesis Driven

Abstract:
There are 6 – 7 million people worldwide affected by Chagas’ disease, a neglected tropical disease caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. Such individuals principally reside in Latin American countries, spanning from Mexico to Argentina, where medical treatment is sparse and outdated. The antichagasic drugs currently available include only benznidazole and nifurtimox and were developed over 35 years ago. Side effects include peripheral neuropathy, vomiting, nausea, and insomnia. Recently, benznidazole was approved for use in the United States but it was not previously accepted due to its poor set of side effects. There is an urgent need to develop alternative drugs to combat this disease. Our laboratory previously demonstrated that T. cruzi glucokinase (TcGlcK) could be significantly inhibited with glucosamine-analogue inhibitors and the most potent of the series was carboxybenzyl glucosamine (CBZ-GlcN). TcGlcK is proposed to be an essential drug-target of the protozoan parasite and is situated at the first step of glycolysis, where glucose becomes phosphorylated at the expense of ATP. By inhibiting TcGlcK, the flux of glycolysis becomes diminished and leads to cellular apoptosis. The focus of the SAR investigation was to develop twenty-one monosaccharide derivatives around the design of CBZ-GlcN. As such, these compounds were synthesized, purified, and fully characterized by 1H-NMR, 13C-NMR, and HRMS. The synthesis of each compound involved a one-step hydrolysis reaction of seven different acyl chloride derivatives with D-glucosamine, D-mannosamine, and D-galactosamine. These twenty-one compounds were screened against TcGlcK to assess enzyme inhibition and they were further screened against the T. cruzi (Tulahuen strain) infective form (trypomastigote and amastigote life stages).

Abstract ID: 18
Abstract Title: Overview of modeling the effects of behavior change, waning and imperfect vaccines on the spread of influenza
Student: Christopher Griffin (cg5@email.sc.edu)
Faculty Mentor: Kasia Pawelek (kpawelek@uscb.edu)
Author List: Christopher Griffin, Sarah Tobin, Sara Del Valle, and Kasia A. Pawelek
Program: Mathematics and Computational Science
Abstract Category: Hypothesis Driven

Abstract:
Influenza is one of the major infectious diseases affecting humanity in the 21st century. The ability to predict the spread of the influenza virus using mathematical modeling allows us to examine various strategies that reduce the risk of infection in the population. There are various ways a person can lower a possibility of becoming infected through seasonal vaccinations, altering behavior by avoiding crowded places, washing hands, and following other CDC recommendations. Often the public is not aware that the vaccine efficacy is never 100% and that protection is acquired approximately two weeks following immunization. We present two models, one with a waning vaccine and another with an imperfect vaccine. Both of the models include behavior change and information obtained from modeling within-host dynamics of influenza infections. We created a system of ordinary differential equations using parameters associated with the infectivity of the influenza virus and the progression of the disease inside a human body. Our results of the waning vaccine model showed that the epidemic peak was significantly lowered when public vaccination was performed up to two months past the onset of an epidemic. In our model with an imperfect vaccine we showed that when more than 75% of the vaccinated population is exposed to the influenza virus due to the failure of the vaccine, the epidemiological peak is approximately the same than if the vaccine was not administered under certain model assumptions. The highest epidemiological peak resulted when the vaccine completely failed and vaccinated individuals thought that they were protected against the influenza virus. We showed that incorporating behavior change in addition to vaccination significantly lowers and delays the epidemiological peak giving more time to develop control and prevention strategies. These studies provide more information on the potential impact of pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions during an influenza epidemic.

Abstract ID: 14
Abstract Title: Characterization of Human Corneal Epithelial Cells to be used in Research for Patients with Aniridia
Student: Mikala Kiefer (mkiefer@email.sc.edu)
Faculty Mentor: Jena Chojnowksi (jchojnow@uscb.edu)
Author List: Kiefer, Mikala. Chojnowski, Jena
Program: Natural Sciences
Abstract Category: Hypothesis Driven

Abstract:
Auburn University, University of Georgia, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and University of South Carolina Beaufort have a collaborative mission to find better treatment options for patients with aniridia. This will be done by collecting fibroblasts from patients with aniridia, inducing those cells into pluripotent stem cells(PSCs), introducing a good copy of the Pax6 gene into the induced PSCs, stimulating those modified cells to become corneal epithelial progenitor cells (CEPCs), and transplanting the CEPCs back into the patient’s eyes. This mission requires a subset task of practicing transfection of Pax6 and transplantation of CEPCs into rabbits. Since CEPCs from patients are limited, HCECs for this subset task will be purchased from the ATCC Company. To increase the success rate of this subset task, it is necessary for the purchased HCEC to be molecularly characterized and the percentage of CEPCs to be known in this population, which is my part of the bigger mission. Characterization of these cells is important to create a control for future experimentation and to use as a reference point for any subsequent characterizations. This project will use a cryopreserved HCEC line from the ATCC Company. Molecular and morphological characteristics of this cell line will determine the percentage of progenitor vs non-progenitor cells within this population. This is important because regeneration of the cornea requires a significant population of progenitor cells. I will use immunohistochemistry (IHC) to identify the presence or absence of specific antibodies known to be associated with progenitor or non-progenitor HCEC. No single protein can determine progenitor vs non-progenitor cells which is why a combination of proteins is necessary. PAX6 is expressed in both populations and therefore will be used as a control. Morphologically, I will be looking at shape and size as a biomarker for the presence of progenitor cells. My molecular and morphological characterization data will confirm there is a population of cells with the potential, through manipulation, to regenerate the cornea in the rabbits, and ultimately for patients with aniridia.

Abstract ID: 54
Abstract Title: Synthesis, Purification, and Characterization of Monosaccharide Inhibitors for Trypanosoma cruzi Hexokinase
Student: Robert Lanier (Lanierr@email.uscb.edu)
Faculty Mentor: Edward D`Antonio (edantonio@uscb.edu)
Author List: Robert Lanier, Scott Green, Hanna Gracz, Edward L. D'Antonio
Program: Natural Sciences
Abstract Category: Hypothesis Driven

Abstract:
The human pathogenic protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, being the cause of Chagas’ disease, is a neglected tropical disease. In Latin America, there are currently 6-7 million people affected by Chagas’ disease, also killing over ten thousand people each year. T. cruzi cells possess a glycolytic enzyme, hexokinase (TcHxK), that is essential to its survival. Due to the broad substrate range of TcHxK, various monosaccharides can be phosphorylated at appreciable rates. This study focuses on the synthesis and purification of potential inhibitors of TcHxK in order to discover an inhibitor that is effective at killing T. cruzi cells. To identify a class of monosaccharide-based inhibitors that are potent and selective with respect to the human homologue, a focus was centered on the structure-activity relationship from a previously confirmed inhibitor for T. cruzi glucokinase. Three monosaccharides were explored that included: D-glucosamine, D-mannosamine, and D-galactosamine using 7 acyl chloride derivatives to tether on having an amide bond. Each inhibitor was purified through a semi-preparative high-performance liquid chromatography instrument, purifying and collecting a single compound. These compounds were characterized using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and high-resolution mass spectrometry. The compounds were confirmed to be the desired products from the syntheses.

Abstract ID: 74
Abstract Title: Pollinator-plant Specialization of Hummingbirds along an Elevation Gradient
Student: Rebecca Malkewicz (malkewir@email.sc.edu)
Faculty Mentor: Stephen Borgianini (borgians@uscb.edu)
Author List: Rebecca A Malkewicz
Program: Natural Sciences
Abstract Category: Hypothesis Driven

Abstract:
As the world’s largest tropical rainforest, the Amazon is well-advertised as needing protection from deforestation. However, South America harbors another great forest – unheard of by most people – which is the Pacific Ecuadorian Forest in the Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena Global Biodiversity Hotspot. Whereas the Amazon has lost approximately 17% of its forest, this ecosystem in Ecuador has lost 98%. Since the foundation of the Jama-Coaque Reserve in 2007, the remaining 2% is on the mend, with 1,400 acres of tropical moist forest and premontane cloud forest under protection. In an attempt to help further the reserve’s restoration efforts, this study observes the effects elevation has on the specialization of the forest’s essential pollinator-plant species, specifically hummingbird plants. Hummingbirds have highly mutualistic relationships with the plants they feed on – the hummingbird acting as the pollinator and the plant providing the resources it needs to survive. So dependent are they on one another that the floral morphology of many hummingbird plants will evolve to compliment that of the birds’ bill. A generalist hummingbird species will have a shorter and straighter bill, allowing it to feed on a variety of plants, but a specialized hummingbird normally has a beak designed to match that of a particular plant. In this way, specialist species are limited to select resources, and are especially fragile after duress from severe abiotic conditions. Previous studies suggest that elevation gradients are beneficial for modeling climate change, and other unpredictable conditions. This experiment examines how the specialization of hummingbird plants changes along the elevation gradient of the coastal range. Hopefully, the study will aid in determining how the species of the Jama-coaque reserve will be affected if the ecosystem is struck with harsh conditions.

Abstract ID: 75
Abstract Title: Characterizing and Predicting the Social Trends of a Local Community based on Online Social Networks
Student: Jeremy Suarez (suarez3@email.uscb.edu)
Faculty Mentor: Xiaomei Zhang (xiaomei@uscb.edu)
Author List: Jeremy Suarez, Dr. Xiaomei Zhang
Program: Mathematics and Computational Science
Abstract Category: Hypothesis Driven

Abstract:
The goal is to analyze, interpret and predict social trends based on data acquired from the online social network meetup.com. To achieve the goal, the objective is to accumulate data on the following: creation of social groups, event frequency, event attendance, and longevity of the groups. Once the data is collected, the data will be processed using data mining techniques to cluster popular social events and groups. The events and groups with the highest concentration represent the popular trend. Through the data mining of social trends, the local community will see the evolution in interest from the past 10 years to present day. Then with the model developed through the data mining process, predictions will be made on the evolution of social trends and the predictions will be evaluated to determine accuracy.

Abstract ID: 29
Abstract Title: Your Healthy Heart: A Health Promotion community- based intervention, with the YMCA of Beaufort and Beaufort High School to Increase Fruit and Vegetable Intake.
Student: Jayln Washington (Jayln@email.uscb.edu)
Faculty Mentor: Diana Reindl (dreindl@uscb.edu)
Author List: Jayln Washington, Diana Reindl, and Caral Raines
Program: Nursing and Health Professions
Abstract Category: Hypothesis Driven

Abstract:
Background:rnThere are a variety of innovative and demonstrated ways to make the healthy choice the easy choice. This student-led intervention was developed in partnership with the American Heart Association with the intent to increase influence nutritional intake. Specifically, the purpose of this project was to increase fruit and vegetable intake the 4-18 year olds at Beaufort High School and the YMCA of Beaufort.rnrnMethods:rnTwo professionally designed 11 x 17 flyers where created to highlight and emphasize eating fruits and vegetables in Beaufort High School and the YMCA of Beaufort. Each flyer contained a minimum of 6 fruits and vegetables and descriptions highlighting the benefits of each item for three weeks. A time series, pre and post test was conducted at both locations to determine if an increase in fruit and vegetable intake occurred. rnrnResults: rnThere are 1,365 participants at Beaufort High School and 143 participants at the YMCA. Beaufort High pretest results showed an average fruit and vegetable intake of 36%. During implementation, week one results increased to 46% of Beaufort High students eating fruits and vegetables. An additional increase from 52% to 59% occurred during weeks two and three, respectively. By the end of the YMCA intervention, 100% of 4-13 year olds, had eaten a fruit or vegetable. This was an increase from only 20% of the participants eating a fruit or vegetable pre-intervention. rnrnConclusion:rnOverall, the participants found that the display of healthier options encouraged them to make healthier choices. Morever, participants found this program both beneficial and effortless. Program facilitators and participants were satisfied with the measured outcomes of this intervention and program participants were able to retain useful information that can be applied to their everyday lives.

Abstract ID: 5
Abstract Title: Influence of Educational Intervention on Salad Bar Usage Among Middle-School Children
Student: Carla Woods (cwoods@email.sc.edu)
Faculty Mentor: Swati DebRoy (sdebroy@uscb.edu)
Author List: Carla Woods, Shae Gantt, Valerie Meuhleman, Alan Warren
Program: Mathematics and Computational Science
Abstract Category: Hypothesis Driven

Abstract:
The purpose of this research project is to examine the association of certain socio-economic facts such as age, ethnicity, gender, and Body Mass Index, along with socio-economic status with preference to elect for a salad-bar lunch in middle-school children in Jasper County. With obesity in children being a health concern for the United States is on the rise, measures are required to be taken to avoid the issue in the future. With data procured from middle schools in Jasper County, data analysis is used to calculate the aggregate number of visits to a salad bar per week, per student and the total number of visits. From there, statistical analysis is used to calculate the strength of correlations between the times a student has visited a salad bar to the characteristics (physical and socio-economic) of the student, the analysis of variance to determine statistically significant difference in the usage of the salad bar, study the time-series pattern of number of visits to the salad bar per week when categorized based on the Body Mass Index status and implement multivariate regression analysis.