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HUNTINGTON — Students Darby McCloud, Michael Smith, Brendin Flinn and Ashley Dague from Marshall University’s College of Science have received $5,000 research grants from the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium and will be working alongside Marshall faculty as part of Marshall University’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program.

McCloud is conducting research on “Mechanisms Underlying Environmental Factors that Accelerate Linear Growth in Mice.” She is working with Dr. Maria Serrat, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

This is McCloud’s second NASA Undergraduate Research Fellowship.

This year’s funding will help her analyze bone growth and structure in weight-bearing and non-weight-bearing bones. Results could demonstrate that a high-fat diet systemically impacts all bones of the growing skeleton and will help identify the importance of maintaining a healthy diet in children from a very young age, Serrat said. Her findings will also be relevant to understanding the importance of diet composition on maintaining a healthy bone structure during space flight.

Smith’s research focuses on “The role of DUF1471-containing proteins in adaptation of Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium to adverse environment.” He is working with Dr. Lydia Bogomolnaya, an assistant professor in the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine who works in the field of microbiology.

Smith is a biological sciences major from Huntington who plans to graduate in December of this year, with hopes to go on to medical school and continue doing research. He started his research in Bogomolnaya’s lab in January. The goal of his project is to identify proteins important to survival of Salmonella during acid and oxidative stress, conditions bacteria commonly encounter during infection. This research will help researchers better understand mechanisms of bacterial adaptation and will lay a foundation for the development of new strategies to interfere with Salmonella infection.

Flinn’s research focuses on “Human-Stem-Cell-Derived Cardiomyocytes as a model of Cardiac Function.” He has been working with Dr. Nalini Santanam, a professor in the medical school’s Department of Biomedical Sciences.

The goal of Flinn’s project is “to learn how to convert human pluripotent stem cells to beating heart cells (cardiomyocytes), so we can use this as a model to test novel drugs for cardiometabolic diseases,” Santanam said.

Flinn is a biological sciences major with emphasis on pre-med who is from Parkersburg, West Virginia and expects to graduate in 2022.

Dague received research funding for her project, “Evaluation of Antimicrobial Properties of Extracts from the Model Moss Ceratodon purpureus,” which she is conducting with Dr. Eugene Shakirov, an assistant professor of biology in the College of Science.

Dague, a biological sciences major with an emphasis on pre-med, from Triadelphia, West Virginia, will test extracts of Ceratodon purpureus moss for the presence of biologically active natural metabolites and perform initial characterization of their antimicrobial properties. The results of these experiments will increase scientists’ ability to fight microbial pathogens and to protect humans exposed to potentially more harmful bacterial infections in space flights.

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