WHY WE ARE HERE
Huntington's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that results in the destruction of neural cells in the brain. This disease is genetically inherited and affects over 200,000 US citizens each year. Typically appearing in a person's 30s or 40s, some common symptoms include degradation of cognition, such as thinking and processing information, depression, loss of movement, and psychiatric symptoms due to a reduced quality in life. There is currently no cure for Huntington's and typically within 15-20 years after symptoms first appear, the patient will die.
We plan to change this.
Our research is focused on combining stem cell technology with genetic engineering to create a cure for Huntington’s that is derived from the patient’s own cells, which reduces the risk of immune rejection. In summary, our goal is to use prime editing to insert a stop codon into the HTT gene in stem cells, ending transcription of the mutant HTT protein. We then plan to differentiate the cells into functioning neurons, creating new healthy cells that can be administered to Huntington’s patients. The resulting cells will be tested through western blotting and cell function will be monitored.
We are Team CHANGE, a sophomore research team in the Gemstone Honors Program at the University of Maryland. Our team is composed of 11 undergraduate students, all with families that live in various counties of Maryland. While we are all students of different communities, organizations, and majors, we all seek to improve how genetically inherited diseases are addressed and treated using scientific research. Our team was formed in Spring 2019 and will continue our project until May 2022, when we will defend our Senior Thesis. We are gratefully guided by our incredible mentor Dr. Cao, Ph.D., a professor of Cell Biology and Genetics and accomplished researcher; Xiaojing Mao, a remarkable graduate student in Dr. Cao's lab, and our amazing STEM librarian, Jodi Coalter.
WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT
As an undergraduate research team, Team CHANGE currently has limited resources and funding, and must purchase many of our research materials ourselves. Before we can begin to make progress toward correcting Huntington’s, we need the proper materials for our laboratory work, which can be very expensive. These materials include but are not limited to cell culture medium, cell lines, antibodies and chemicals, and much more. We greatly appreciate your help and donations of any size will significantly help us reach our goal. Thank you so much for supporting Team CHANGE, and we are excited to share the results of our research in the coming years.
CONTACT AND FOLLOW US
Gifts in support of the University of Maryland are accepted and managed by the University of Maryland College Park Foundation, Inc., an affiliated 501(c)(3) organization authorized by the Board of Regents. Contributions to the University of Maryland are tax deductible as allowed by law. Please see your tax advisor for details.