UWL students researching a way to prevent Alzheimer’s

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UWL students researching a way to prevent Alzheimer’s

Picture Credit: Medical Xpress

Picture Credit: Medical Xpress

Picture Credit: Medical Xpress

Picture Credit: Medical Xpress

Chantal Zimmermann, Features Reporter

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Graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse conducted research examining the effect of oxidative stress on muscles and neurons. This research combined the role of the brain’s aging with the neurodegenerative disease, Alzheimer’s.

In the fall of 2018, UWL opened the new Prairie Springs Science Center allowing students to have an updated space to conduct their research.

UWL Graduate Student Alex Steil is studying cellular and molecular biology. Steil said, “Now it has a more coherent work area.” He continued to explain that they are closer to one another allowing a better flow of communication.

Another graduate student, Josh Barbara explained that the new building helps with collaboration, because questions can be answered quicker and more efficiently.

Steil and other graduate students researched how muscles regenerate and how cells react with a specific oxidation. Alongside Professor Jennifer Klein of biology, Steil edits specific genes and researches how one residue affects stem cells and entire muscle fibers.

“Oxidative stress in cells is largely responsible for the way people physically age,” said Steil. He continued to explain that oxidation of different components accumulates over time and the body slows down and weakens.

In collaboration with Steil’s research, Barbara studies how oxidative stress leads to Alzheimer’s disease. Barbara explained that if they can fully understand how stress and aging correlate, they can possibly obtain preventative measures for Alzheimer’s.

On a day to day basis, Barbara focuses on taking care of the cells they are experimenting with. He teams up with undergrad students to conduct research on neurons, while Steil focuses on the muscles.

“Along with muscle cells, we are also studying the effects of site-specific oxidation in neurons, and gaining insight to the molecular mechanisms which contribute to the development of Alzheimers,” said Steil.

Steil said he never had a prior interest in this study, but Klein urged him to volunteer in her lab. He explained he appreciated the work and the more time he spent in the lab, the more interested he became in the study.

Barbara and Steil urge students to get involved in the lab. “Research is the best way to understand,” said Barbara. Students can get involved with a hands on approach that will allow them to understand more in the classroom, Barbara continued.

“This sort of insight into how cells are behaving in degenerative muscle disorders can’t be called a cure, but it certainly contributes to the vast body of knowledge required for advancing relevant medicine and technology,” said Steil.

The researchers plan on continuing their research until they can fully understand how Alzheimers functions and finding a way to prevent it.

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