My name is Becky Hardie and I am a rising 4th year Biomedical Engineering undergraduate at the Georgia Institute of Technology. I have had the opportunity to work on a diverse range of research projects spanning microbiology and genomics, mechanobiology, biomechanics, and stem cell maintenance. As part of the NIH Human Microbiome Project I cultivated and identified anaerobic oral bacteria under the guidance of Dr. Mircea Podar at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. At Georgia Tech, I helped develop an organ culture model of glaucoma for evaluating stem cell therapies with Dr. Eric Snider in Dr. C. Ross Ethier’s lab. I am currently involved in projects investigating the biomechanical properties of lymphatic vessels in the lab of Dr. Rudolph Gleason and assessing ocular compliance in BXD mice in the lab of Dr. C. Ross Ethier. This summer, I am working at the University of California, Berkeley under the guidance of Dr. Danica Chen. Dr. Chen’s lab focuses on understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms that regulate aging. They are currently concentrating on determining the role of sirtuins on stem cell maintenance and aging.
My project this summer in Dr. Danica Chen’s lab explores the role of SIRT3 in adult neurogenesis and aging. Neurogenesis, the process of generating new neurons from neural stem cells, is important for maintaining cognitive ability as we age. SIRT3 is a protein found in the mitochondria that is involved in many cellular processes, and Dr. Chen’s lab has previously shown that SIRT3 is involved in regulating aging in hematopoietic (blood) stem cells (HSCs). A deficiency of SIRT3 has no effect on the function of young HSCs, however aged HSCs deficient in SIRT3 show reduced function that can be rescued by increasing the expression of SIRT3. My project focuses on determining whether SIRT3 has a similar effect on neural stem cells (NSCs). By comparing the number of NSCs in the brains of mice deficient in SIRT3 with the number of NSCs in normal mouse brains, I will determine the effect SIRT3 has on NSCs. Completing this analysis with mice of different ages will help determine how the involvement of SIRT3 in regulating NSCs changes with aging. This research will increase the body of knowledge on the regulatory mechanisms involved in adult neurogenesis during aging and may eventually lead to therapies to slow or reverse age-related cognitive decline.