From the smallest life-forms to life’s big questions, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences students win at Grad Show


From left: Associate Dean Dr. Sandra Quackenbush, Mike Mangalea, David Markman, Allison Cleymaet and Dr. Susan VandeWoude.

The CSU Graduate School’s one-day conference highlighting research and creativity wrapped up Nov. 15 with 350 presentations, including 38 entries from graduate students in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Seven CVMBS entries took home awards in the categories of Top Scholar, Undergraduate Choice, Great Minds in Research.
The CVMBS Top Scholar Award values discovery and celebrates development of the skill set to advance knowledge with original research. The college’s mission is to help animals, people and the planet through restorative and preventive strategies for the health of these systems – a One Health perspective. This award recognizes promising research students.

The Great Minds in Research award is a collaboration of the Graduate School and the Office of Vice President for Research. This award recognizes graduate student submissions that contribute to the excellence and advancement of research, scholarship, and entrepreneurial efforts at CSU.

The Undergraduate Choice Awards give undergraduates a chance to be jurors, exposing them to graduate-level scholarship and critical analysis. They are sponsored by the Graduate School and the Office for Undergraduate Research and Artistry.

Evan Acerbo, Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences (toxicology)

Great Minds in Research Honorable Mention

Histological Analysis of the Bacterial Infection Burkholderia pseudomallei in Mice

Burkholderia pseudomallei, a bacterial pathogen native to Thailand and northern Australia is the causative agent of the fatal disease melioidosis. The pathology of the infection is not well understood and thus current treatment of the disease still results in fairly high mortality rates. Previous research from our laboratory has recently discovered a new potential treatment to the infection. A deeper histological analysis of the lung, liver, and spleen tissues of infected mice provides valuable insight into the success of the previous research by creating a better understanding the pathogenesis of this disease.

Allison Cleymaet, Department of Clinical Sciences postdoctoral fellow

CVMBS Top Scholar

Opioids inhibit intrinsically-photosensitive retinal ganglion cells; Implications for opioid epidemic

Opioid (ab)users suffer from circadian dysregulation that negatively impacts quality of life and retards opioid abuse therapy. Intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) are exclusively responsible for the photoentrainment of the sleep-wake cycle. Systemically administered opioids accumulate in the eye. We found that ipRGCs express opioid receptors and elucidated the molecular mechanism by which opioids inhibit light-evoked firing of ipRGCs. Characterizing retinal ipRGCs as a novel site of action for systemically administered opioids may have significant impact on addressing the challenges posed by the current opioid epidemic, with regard to therapeutic mediation of circadian rhythm pathology in opioid users.

Albert Jeon, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology postdoctoral researcher

Great Minds in Research Honorable Mention

Small molecular adjunct strategy to potentiate antibiotics against Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Controlling the global spread of tuberculosis (TB) continues to be a challenge due in part to the lack of new anti-TB drugs and the emergence of drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). We hypothesized that 2-AI would reverse inherent resistance of Mtb against ß-lactam drugs and allow practical use ß-lactam drugs in TB therapy. When combined with 2-AI compounds, ß-lactam drugs showed improved bactericidal capacity. Additionally, we revealed reduced ß-lactamase activity and hypersensitivity against SDS for Mtb treated with 2-AI compounds. These data suggest that 2-AI based small molecules may be effective at reversing inherent drug resistance of Mtb to ß-lactam drugs.

Mihnea (Mike) Mangalea, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology

CVMBS Top Scholar

Breaking Biofilms: nitrate inhibits biofilm formation in Burkholderia pseudomallei

Burkholderia pseudomallei is a saprophytic bacterium inhabiting wet soils in tropical regions where it persists in biofilm communities. Melioidosis, the result of infection with B. pseudomallei, is a disease of high mortality that generally affects a wide variety of animals, immunocompromised people, and specifically targets agricultural workers. We discovered that nitrate inhibits biofilm formation in vitro and identified five genes responsible for sensing nitrate and altering biofilm growth. Our data implicates nitrate metabolism in the regulation of biofilm formation in response to environmental conditions. We propose a model for B. pseudomallei transition from its environmental reservoir to establish infections.

David Markman, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology

CVMBS Top Scholar

Amoeba: The Next Hurdle for Disease Prevention and Detection

The emergence of human and wildlife diseases are difficult to forecast due to complex interactions between pathogens, hosts, and their environment. Many pathogens are characterized by outbreaks followed by periods of dormancy. A critical question is ‘where do pathogens hide during dormancy?’ This research has identified amoeba in soil and water as a culprit. We discovered amoeba are capable of: 1) protecting certain pathogens over long time periods, 2) aiding in transmission of these pathogens, and 3) preventing modern disinfection measures from killing the pathogens. This research is instrumental for preventing disease outbreaks by targeting pathogens before human illness occurs.

Bradley Nelson, Department of Clinical Sciences

Top Scholar Undergraduate Choice – Research

Early detection of osteoarthritis using cationic contrast-enhanced computed tomography
Osteoarthritis is a debilitating and costly disease. Due to its progressive nature and the limited ability for cartilage to heal, the early detection of osteoarthritis is crucial to a successful outcome. However, current imaging methods are incapable of early detection. Using an equine model of cartilage injury, we have investigated and validated a new cationic contrast-enhanced computed tomography (CCECT) imaging method. The CCECT method accurately predicts the biochemical and mechanical properties of damaged cartilage reminiscent of early osteoarthritis, providing microscopic information through this imaging technique. This method will stimulate the development of new therapeutic strategies to combat this devastating disease.

Rachel West, Department of Biomedical Sciences

Great Minds in Research Honorable Mention

Rethinking Oncogenes: The LIN28-Let-7-HMGA2 Axis Drives Placental Development

There is a delicate balance between cell proliferation and cell differentiation in early placental development. Many oncogenes are essential in the maintenance of that balance. Inappropriate cell differentiation can lead to an insufficient amount of cells in the placenta. This cellular insufficiency can lead to placental insufficiency, causing placental pathologies including preeclampsia and intrauterine growth restriction. This proposal will focus primarily on the oncogenes that make up the LIN28-let-7-HMGA2 axis.