Characterizing the Experession of Pyk2 Protein in Mice Models of Alzheimer's Disease



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This summer I worked at the Strittmatter lab at the Yale School of Medicine exploring a biochemical pathway involved in Alzheimer’s disease. I worked closely with my mentor to characterize the expression of the Pyk2 protein in a downstream cascade resulting in the phosphorylation of Tau protein. The phosphorylated Tau threads form tangles, which cause disruptions in the neuron’s internal transport system resulting in neuronal decline and death. Tau tangles are speculated to be one of the main causes of Alzheimer’s disease. The Pyk2 protein has been previously associated with learning and cancer research however, little is known about its role in the regulation of Tau. The data for the study was primarily collected through behavioral tests conducted on mice and analysis of their brain tissue post-testing. My work focused on testing and developing immunostaining protocols for the study. I was also responsible for slicing harvested mice brains and imaging cells after staining them for specific proteins. Since I had little experience in the field of biochemistry I developed a variety of technical skills while working at the lab. One of the most important skills that I honed at my time there was combining critical thinking and creativity to overcome challenges. The lab environment was conducive for both collaboration and discussion with other graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. Their encouragement led me to improvise a specific method of slicing the brain, which not only saved time but also brain tissue. I was also able to gain insight on graduate school, pursuing research, and the daily challenges faced by researchers. Additionally weekly presentations with the principal investigator taught me how to better present my findings in an unbiased and confident manner. Overall the Strittmatter lab gave me an unforgettable and invaluable insight into the workings of a lab and ongoing research.