James Lee

Differential response of wild-type and mutant small heat shock protein alpha-crystallin to chemical and thermal stresses

Cataracts, caused by the aggregation of proteins inside lens cells, are the leading cause of blindness in the world. Alpha-crystallins, members of the small heat shock protein family, are essential for eye lens transparency in humans and mice. Using mouse models with different mutations in aA-crystallin, I am investigating the mechanisms for establishing and maintaining lifelong lens transparency. This summer I will be challenging these cells with a compound called Withaferin A, a chemical that causes changes in cell architecture. By observing the response of intracellular proteins to this compound, I will be able to explore some of the causes of protein aggregation and malfunction inside lens cells. If successful, my research may provide clues for preventing or treating cataract formation.

Message to Sponsor

This is an amazing opportunity for me because it gives me a chance to really concentrate on my research this summer, especially since I am going to be doing my own independent project as an honors thesis. Although I have been part of my lab for a long time, I have never had the opportunity to work full-time on a project. Coming into lab every day this summer makes a huge difference in allowing me to follow the progress of my project day by day and take control of every aspect of my research. I look forward to meeting other researchers and enjoying a summer full of learning.
  • Major: Molecular and Cell Biology
  • Mentor: Xiaohua Gong, Vision Science/Optometry