My name is Jeffrey Gu, and I am a neuroscience major and computer science minor at Duke University. This summer, I worked with the Ellerby lab at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, California. The Ellerby lab studies the molecular mechanisms underlying nerve cell death in Huntington’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. Over my ten weeks at the Buck, I worked closely with Jesse Simons, Stephen Scheeler, and Dr. Lisa M. Ellerby on my project regarding a potentially therapeutic pathway related to Huntington’s disease.
Huntington’s disease (HD) is a debilitating, age-related neurological disorder that affects over 30,000 Americans. Individuals typically have 15-20 years to live after the first symptoms appear (usually around age 40). Like many neurodegenerative diseases, there are no therapies or cures for Huntington’s disease. My project aims to take the first step towards those goals by looking at the gene Oxidation Resistance 1 (OXR-1). Previous studies have investigated OXR-1 and its role in neurodegeneration in mouse and Drosophila (fruit flies) models of HD and found that increased levels of OXR-1 extended lifespan and improved cognition in these models. My goal is to use a human model of HD to validate OXR-1 as a therapeutic target for HD. Finding a relationship between the levels of OXR-1 and disease severity would be a critical first step towards developing therapeutic treatments for Huntington’s disease, using OXR-1 as the target.