Determining the role of Solo GEF in astrocyte migration signaling

Raised of $5,000 Goal
Ended on 4/07/14
Campaign Ended
  • $73
  • 2%
  • Finished
    on 4/07/14

About This Project

Astrocytes are essentially neuronal "helper" cells and provide structural as well as metabolic support to your neurons. When the spine is damaged, astrocytes migrate to the damaged region and create a scar which eventually leads to paralysis. Scientists know little about the signaling mechanisms astrocytes use to migrate and my work aims to elucidate the role of Rho GTPases and associated GEFs in astrocyte movement.

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What is the context of this research?

I am a third year PhD student at Rensselaer Polytechic Institute and, due to budget constraints, have been paying for my own thesis work for the last four months. I research astrocyte migration and the underlying Rho GTPase signaling cascade which allows astrocytes to move. Currently my work is going very well although my main roadblock is, predictably, lack of funds. I have already been a contributing author in the Journal of Biomaterials through collaboration with a biomedical engineering lab. I am hoping to graduate in 2015 with a first author paper in addition to a review article about Dbl GEFs which I am currently writing. Any assistance would be most welcome in helping me to graduate as soon as possible!

What is the significance of this project?

Astrocytes are a structural component of the brain and spinal column and support neurons structurally as well as through ion channeling and a variety of other roles. When damaged, astrocytes undergo astrogliosis which causes a glial scar to form and, in the case of the spine, to block neuronal extension and thereby cause paralysis. If astrocyte migration, especially during trauma, could be regulated or directed via its signaling pathways the glial scar would be less prevalent or extreme. A reduced glial scar could decrease the extent of paralysis and possibly lead to regained limb function.

Additionally, astrocytomas are the most common glioma and account for nearly half of all brain tumors. Cancers spread via cellular signaling and an understanding of the migratory signaling cascades of astrocytes could bring to light new therapeutic targets for future astrocytoma treatment.

What are the goals of the project?

Currently I am working on using siRNA to knock down my GEF of interest. This GEF turns on a Rho GTPase with is a "molecular switch" within the cell and instructs the astrocyte to move. Once this protein is knocked down I will be determining the effect it has on migration, contractility, adhesion to different surface substrates as well as to cell morphology. By doing these experiments I will be able to determine whether this protein is critical to astrocyte migration and, if so, how critical. My most important goal is to finish these experiments, publish my work and graduate with my PhD so that I can enter the biotech field and begin to do real good through creating therapeutics and increasing quality of life.


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Generally I will use these potential funds to purchase reagents and materials needed for siRNA knock down of a given protein, enzymes and buffers for RT-PCR analysis, antibodies and agarose conjugated beads for western blot and immunoprecipitation analysis, reagents for Rho activity pull down assay, extracellular matrix proteins for hydrogels and adhesion assays, and confocal microscopy time.

Meet the Team

Kristien Van Vlasselaer
Kristien Van Vlasselaer

Team Bio

I am a third year PhD candidate at RPI in upstate NY and I came here from California to pursue my research dreams, see some snow, and prepare myself for a career in biotech! I'm incredibly passionate about my work, love to learn and teach and can't wait to graduate and start doing some real good. I hope to use my PhD to create therapeutics in the fields of cancer and inflammation and also have a passion for communication and collaboration which I believe would make me a good biological consultant. Any help you can provide, financial or otherwise, is much appreciated!

Kristien Van Vlasselaer

I'm a PhD student that loves animals, science, knitting, tea in the morning, wine in the evening, and Harry Potter any time at all!

Lab Notes

Nothing posted yet.

Additional Information

This is the link to my previous funding website which I cannot be thankful enough for:

If you are unable to help financially I completely understand and would ask that you please spread the word of my project through any means at your disposal!

Project Backers

  • 5Backers
  • 2%Funded
  • $73Total Donations
  • $14.60Average Donation
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