Congratulations to Honors College senior and Chancellor’s Scholar Melissa Rowe, who has been awarded the 2020-21 George Williams Garrett Memorial Scholarship. As a biology major and a chemistry minor, Rowe is working in the joint lab of Drs. Maryam Ahmed and Darren Seals, both associate professors in the Department of Biology. She has received this scholarship to support her Honors thesis research with Dr. Seals as her thesis director. She is researching a virus that has potential to be used as an immune therapy for various cancers. Specifically, she is working to determine if vesicular stomatitis virus of the strain r-M51R-M can convert macrophages (a type of immune cell) from a pro-cancer immunosuppressive phenotype to an anti-cancer proinflammatory phenotype.
Rowe plans to graduate in May of 2021. She then hopes to attend a doctoral program in immunology where she can continue this research. As she stated,
“I see this research as important because viruses that do not cause human sickness are a promising treatment for several types of cancer. My project is looking at how these viruses work against tumors, in the hopes of having a better understanding of a branch of medicine that could one day save lives. The experiment I am working on seeks to chemically inhibit a type of protein called STAT1. STAT1 is part of a protein pathway that could be responsible for the action of the virus. By blocking the protein, we can determine if this pathway is the one responsible or if the virus works by a different mechanism. So far, we have proved that the chemical we are using is able to successfully inhibit STAT1 in suppressive macrophages infected with r-M51R-M. This finding will allow us to move forward with comparing the phenotypes of inhibited with uninhibited macrophages following r-M51R-M infection.”
The photo above shows the results from a test of fludarabine's ability at different concentrations (50, 100, and 150 µM) to inhibit STAT1 phosphorylation in r-M51R-M (M51)-infected THP-1 macrophages. MOI is the multiplicity of infection, the amount of virus added to the macrophages. The darker the band is, the more active STAT1 is present in that sample. Photo submitted.
Mrs. Sheila Garrett established the George Williams Garrett Memorial Scholarship in 2017 in honor of her late husband George Williams Garrett. Mr. Garrett, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam, was a mathematician and systems analyst. Mrs. Garrett is a medical technologist whose career spanned 45 years. The Garrett family is devoted to scientific research, especially research focused on medical applications.
The George Williams Garrett Memorial Scholarship provides $1000 support to students in the Honors College at Appalachian pursuing careers in scientific research with preference given to students who are planning to work in medicine or medical research. Honors College students in good standing and performing research in fields related to the biomedical field are eligible to apply. This scholarship supports research and related travel expenses outside of coursework. Rowe plans to present her research at the North Carolina American Society for Microbiology Branch Meeting later this month.
The top photo features Melissa Rowe with a vial of THP-1's, the type of macrophage cell line used in the experiments she is conducting. Photo submitted.