Describe your undergraduate research or creative project:
Autophagy is a regulated cellular mechanism that allows for the orderly degradation of cellular components. During autophagy, the components are isolated in vesicles that then fuse with a lysosome to digest the contents and produce energy. Cellular stress-caused by cancer therapy, for example - can result in the formation of autophagic vessels as a coping mechanism for the cells to maintain a source of energy. Preliminary imaging studies have shown the presence of autophagic vesicles prior to cell death in cultured human colon cancer cells that were treated with OSW-1, a natural product with anticancer activity. Traditionally, the intracellular processes that occur during this autophagy would be analyzed by creating celllysates using thousands of cells. This gives a big picture of what is happening, but the heterogeneity of the cells is destroyed when the lysate is made. Although tumor cells are traditionally thought to be quite similar to one another, they have recently been found to vary in genetic makeup, gene expression, phenotypic profile, and response to treatment- even within an individual patient. However, our lab, in collaboration with the Yang lab, has developed a new mass spectrometry technology- Single-probe Mass Spectrometry- that allows for real-time metabolomic analysis of individual living cells. This will not only measure the cellular metabolites, but it will also allow for us to see the differences between individual cells that undergo the same treatment.
Awards and/or presentations:
Cai, C. (2016, April). Metabolomic Analysis of OSW-1 Treated HeLa Cells using Single-Probe Mass Spectrometry. Poster session presented at the University of Oklahoma's Undergraduate Research Day, Norman, OK.