Investigating Cellular Responses to Extracellular Proteotoxicity

Summer 2017

Daniel Jong Hyun Choi : Molecular and Cell Biology

Mentor: Andrew Dillin

With advances in health care and changes in lifestyle, humans are living healthier, longer. As a result, there has been a dramatic increase in the incidence of age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Despite decades of study, the mechanisms driving neurodegenerative disease pathogenesis remain unknown and effective treatments elusive.

Inflammation is a hallmark feature of neurodegeneration, suggesting that inflammatory responses could be both protective and harmful to tissue physiology. We are developing a small molecule paradigm of extracellular proteotoxicity that is amenable to high-throughput genomic studies. Our preliminary data suggest that cells exposed to this chemical phenocopy induce broad immunological responses observed with extracellular amyloid-Beta. I will investigate which cellular pathways mediate these responses with the ultimate goal of manipulating cells to bias them towards protective instead of harmful responses that drive neurodegeneration.

Through the generous donations by the Rose Hills Foundation, I was able to immerse myself into the wonders that can only be experienced through academic research. Basic science courses teach us the foundations to the unpredictable and often failure-prone situations of research. My SURF experience has shaped my future interests greatly, giving a glimpse into the other alternatives to my future academic career. It has further fostered my interest in research and has allowed me to think critically in solving unpredictable problems. If I am able to do it again, I would accept the challenge in a heartbeat.