Knox junior Shaunak Mulani has been conducting research on a unique organism for his Honors project: dictyostelium discoideum.
This organism, according to Mulani, is resistant to DNA damage caused by ultraviolet radiation. Mulani first encountered this organism the summer after his freshman year while working as a research assistant for Assistant Professor of Biology Matthew Jones-Rhoades.
“We wanted to see the behavioral patterns of the different strains of the organism,” Mulani said. “Matt told me the organism has a good DNA repair system but that we don’t really know why.”
Based on this previous research, Mulani believes that dictyostelium’s resistance to DNA damage by UV radiation comes from the organism’s DNA repair system. He is examining this system through a procedure called alumina sequencing.
“We take all the cells from the organism and expose them to UV light,” Mulani said; he went on to explain that they then extract the organism’s RNA to see which genes are expressed and which are not. Results from this stage of Mulani’s research have been sent off to a research center in Chicago.
“We’re finding genes that are homologous to DNA repair pathways in humans,” Mulani said. “Particularly, we used cells that are homologous to human skin cancer. We found that there is a difference in the expression of the genes exposed to UV light.”
Mulani’s Honors committee is made up of Jones-Rhoades, Associate Professor of Biology Esther Penick and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Larry Welch. Assistant Professory of Biology Demetrius Gravis from Beloit College serves as an outside examiner of Mulani’s research.
Mulani is a biology major with a minor in chemistry; he is a junior but will be graduating this spring and entering the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in the fall.