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Showcase Molecular Biology

The Sea as a Source of Novel Antiparasitic Compounds

The Sea as a Source of Novel Antiparasitic Compounds

Primary Author: Rachel Relat

Faculty Sponsor: Roberta O’Connor


Primary College/Unit: College of Veterinary Medicine

Category: Medical and Life Sciences

Campus: Pullman





Cryptosporidium, an intracellular parasite that causes severe diarrhea, is now recognized as a leading cause of waterborne disease worldwide, infecting both humans and valuable livestock.  Cryptosporidium infection is particularly devastating in children as it causes life-threatening diarrhea, along with developmental delays including growth stunting and cognitive impairment. Cryptosporidium is an especially important disease of immunocompromised individuals of all ages, leading to chronic, potentially fatal diarrhea. No effective treatment exists for many human or veterinary patients diagnosed with Cryptosporidium.


To address this medical imperative, we designed a high throughput screen to test thousands of unique compounds, with the goal of discovering new, potent, anti-Cryptosporidium drugs and drug scaffolds. Our collaborators at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) have amassed a library of over 125 natural compounds, and 6500 highly enriched fractions from extracts of marine organisms. We began screening this library as it contains compounds and fractions produced by sessile oceanic animals which frequently use chemical defenses.  We screened greater than 3,600 partially purified extracts from the HBOI library by infecting cells with Cryptosporidium parvum, allowing replication, and then treating with a specific highly enriched fractions or compounds, and then measuring parasite growth after 48 hours.


We identified 10 extracts derived from sessile marine organisms that effectively inhibit (>80% inhibition) Cryptosporidium without damaging the host cells in which these parasites live. This work will significantly contribute to the goal of discovering effective treatments against Cryptosporidium specifically, and further the search for novel anti-parasitic drugs.


Optimizing the Production of Stem-cell-based Cartilage for Arthritis Treatment

Optimizing the Production of Stem-cell-based Cartilage for Arthritis Treatment

Primary Author: Olivia Reynolds

Faculty Sponsor: Bernard Van Wie


Primary College/Unit: Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture

Category: Engineering and Environmental Science

Campus: Pullman




Principle topic

Osteoarthritis (OA), the degradation of articular cartilage tissue which lines joints, affects 30 million adults in the United States. There are few effective treatment options for OA; however, stem-cell-based therapy is a promising emerging treatment as stem cells can form new healthy cartilage. The use of chemical growth factors and anti-inflammatory compounds, as well as the co-culture of stem cells with native cartilage cells can enhance cartilage formation and promote the production of critical structural proteins such as glycosaminoglycans (GAG) and collagen. However, the optimum combination of these factors is unknown. Thus, this work investigated the combined roles of the growth factor dexamethasone, the anti-inflammatory compound alpha-tocopherol, and the ratio of stem cells to cartilage cells in an effort to determine an optimum combination and improve the quality of engineered cartilage tissue.



In this work, dexamethasone concentration, alpha-tocopherol concentration, and stem cell percentage were varied using a Box-Behnken fractional factorial design scheme. Following 21 days of cell culture, total collagen, GAG, and DNA were measured for each experimental group to quantify the amount of cartilage-specific proteins produced. Data were analyzed to determine the culture conditions which resulted in the maximum quantity of collagen and GAG as these proteins indicate cartilage formation.



The results of this study showed that the highest protein production occurred at low stem cell percentages, low to moderate anti-inflammatory concentrations, and moderate growth factor concentration. These results may be used to improve the production of cartilage for applications in OA treatment.