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Students' Cancer Research Published

Alumna, students use CRISPR technology to test cancer drugs

Biology majors Kathleen Davis and Israa Alchaar recently received the good news that their research on cancer cells was published in PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal published by the Public of Library Science.

“It’s so exciting to be an undergraduate and be part of this paper,” Davis said. “It’s been an amazing opportunity.”

The paper, The small heat shock protein aB-Crystallin protects versus withaferin A-induced apoptosis and confers a more metastatic phenotype in cisplatin-resistant ovarian cells, explores how ovarian cancer cells develop resistance to chemotherapeutic agents.

Under the guidance of Bridgewater State University Professor Dr. Merideth Krevosky, the project started back in 2019 with alumna Mel Carmichael, ’20, who is now a PhD student at Dartmouth College studying microbiology and immunology.

While at BSU, Carmichael looked at two ovarian cancer cell lines to learn why some cells are resistant to treatment while others are not. She presented her findings at the virtual Sigma Xi Student Research Showcase in the spring of 2020.

Kathleen and Israa, both seniors, picked up where Carmichael left off and have continued with the study.

In their research, the team used CRISPR technology, a cutting-edge technique for which Drs. Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020.

Merideth Kavorsky with kathleen davis and israa alchar
Kathleen Davis, Dr. Merideth Krevosky, and Israa Alchaar

It is the first time BSU students have used CRISPR technology on campus.

“Essentially it allowed us to edit DNA,” Krevosky said. “We did a lot of experiments in this paper that were new to our lab.”

Like Carmichael, both Kathleen and Israa look to further their education, both have plans to pursue graduate school in the future.

Having performed this type of research, and having it published, will make them stand out from other applicants, Carmichael said.

“The things I got to do as an undergraduate, prepared me well in comparison to some of my peers, many of whom come from larger schools with larger research programs,” she said. “Coming from BSU, where I got to develop this project and do research on my own, I gained independence and skills that have helped me be successful in my first two years here at Dartmouth.”

Israa has already received recognition for the team’s work when a friend from the University of Pennsylvania, whom she worked with this past summer at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, saw the published paper.

“He reached out and asked if we’d be willing to present it at a meeting,” she said.

“I give all the credit to these three young women, they really are the ones who have the drive to do the work,” Krevosky said. “It’s great knowing our students are going out into the world more well-prepared than their contemporaries because of the experience they get and the support of BSU.”

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