For Immediate Release
July 18, 2016
DUBUQUE, Iowa – Loras College has been awarded a $4,924 grant from the Iowa Science Foundation – Academy of Science to help fund a yearlong study of the cytoskeleton or “skeleton” of cells. The funds will pay for supplies and student stipends for the faculty-student research project.
Kate Cooper, Ph.D., associate professor of biology at Loras College, is leading the investigations.
“This study, as basic research, can add to the body of knowledge scientists have about cells,” she said. “In turn, that could aid other research in learning more about diseases related to the cytoskeleton or other diseases where basic cell functions are impaired.”
Cooper uses a model organism called Dictyostelium discoidium, which she has studied for the last five years. The amoeba cells can either live by themselves or attach to other cells in a multicellular slug organism. In collaboration with Dr. Yan Wu, associate professor of engineering physics at University of Wisconsin–Platteville, Cooper and two Loras students are investigating if the stiffness and structure of the cytoskeleton of these cells is different when they are individuals or connected at the multicellular level.
The Loras students will learn how to take care of the Dictyostelium cells and coax them to form multicellular organisms and help collect and analyze the data.
“Most importantly, they will be learning how to design experiments and think critically about what they learn from the study,” Cooper said.
The study’s scientific objective is to determine more about cytoskeletal structure in an organism with both single-cell and multicellular forms. The process utilizes an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) that pushes on an individual cell to determine how soft or hard the cell is. By doing this, Cooper said scientists not only can learn about the structure of the cytoskeleton, but also investigate cell function as well.
“For example, other researchers have found out that cancer cells are a lot softer than non-cancerous cells,” she said.
About Loras College
Loras College leverages its historic roots as Iowa’s first college, the second oldest Catholic college west of the Mississippi River and one of the nation’s 10 diocesan colleges to deliver challenging, life-changing experiences as part of its residential, Catholic setting. According to the 2016 U.S. News Best Colleges rankings, Loras College was named the 13th Best Regional College: Midwest. Visit www.loras.edu for more information.
About Iowa Science Foundation
The Iowa Academy of Science is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. The mission of the Academy is to further scientific research, science education, public understanding of science and to recognize excellence in these endeavors. The academy accomplishes its mission through many programs and activities. The membership includes science researchers, faculty, educators, graduate and undergraduate students, academic institutions, organizations and corporations. Members represent many scientific disciplines in 12 sections. Visit www.scienceiniowa.org for more information.
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