Name: Linda Molla
Field of study: Neuroscience
Host institution: Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA
Mentor(s): Dr. Gerardo Morfini and Dr.Scott Brady
I spent the summer of 2008 doing research in Dr.Gerardo Morfini's and Dr. Scott Brady's laboratories at Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, MA. We were studying alterations of Fast Axonal Transport (FAT) in the pathogenesis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis(ALS). ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease is an adult-onset neurodegenerative diseases that exists in both familial and sporadic forms with indistinguishable clinical pathologies. We were focusing on the effects of mutated SOD1 (superoxide dismutase) on the rate of FAT. SOD1 is an enzyme that is abundant in cells throughout the body. This enzyme converts superoxide to water and hydrogen peroxide thus neutralizing highly reactive oxygen radicals, which can damage cells if their levels are not controlled. Mutations in the SOD1 enzyme underlie many inherited forms of this motor neuron disease. Using biochemical and in vivo experiments, we found a new pathogenic pathway that is affected in ALS due to mutated SOD1 and results in compromised FAT. Mutated SOD1 inhibits kinesin-based anterograde FAT through a pathway that involves activation of a kinase that phosphorylated kinesin-1 heavy chains and inhibited kinesin-1 microtubule-binding activity. Kinase inhibitors prevented SOD1-mediated inhibition of FAT and the kinase represents a promising target for therapeutic interventions in ALS.
This summer I had my first opportunity to work in a biology lab. It was a great opportunity since it happened at MBL (Marine Biological Laboratory) in Cape Cod. This is an inspiring place to do biology research, to meet people who love science and attend lectures given by some of the most successful scientists in the world. It really made me work diligently and made me realize that even the discovery of a small detail in a signaling pathway is a piece of the puzzle that might help humans in the future. This was my first experience working in a lab and I really enjoyed it. It is rewarding and interesting to discover new things that some day might help people. In the lab I was working with great scientists and great people. They really helped me understand that doing research is a perfect way to help others and do something meaningful. Also they made me realize that if you work hard enough, think positive and enjoy what you do you will be successful and feel accomplished. It is not easy and at times it can be frustrating, but as long as you are motivated and keep an open mind you can make it.