STEM Research Spaces

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InnovaBio is a laboratory space dedicated to providing you with project and research experience in most STEM disciplines. We offer a welcoming environment for students to develop productive lab skills while working on real projects. Some of our projects originate from established faculty research, while others are part of our contracts with Utah biotechnology companies. In any case, the projects you complete with us will better prepare you to tackle the challenges of your future career.

Mormon Tea Project (Lane/Lonnie)

Mormon tea is made from a local plant within the Ephedra genus. Ephedra species have medicinal, ecological, and economic value. In vitro and in vivo pharmacological studies have demonstrated anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antibacterial, antioxidant, hepatoprotective, anti-obesity, antiviral, and diuretic activities. Local samples of Ephedra and they are being analyzed, using seventeen different primers linked to seven DNA molecular markers to determine their species with the eventual goal of exploring their medicinal properties.

CRISPR Gene Editing in Yeast Project (Lane/Lonnie)

The CRISPR/Cas9 system is a powerful tool for gene editing and it has become increasingly important for biology students to understand this emerging technique. We are validating a lab module that engages students in learning the fundamentals of CRISPR/Cas9 methodology using the simple and inexpensive model system, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Students use CRISPR/Cas9 and nonhomologous end joining to generate frameshift insertion and deletion mutations in the CAN1 gene, which are easily selected for using media plates that have canavanine. DNA sequencing is also performed to determine what type of mutation occurred in gene-edited cells.

Anthocyanins Project (Lane)

Anthocyanins are members of the flavonoid group, a dietary compound that has health effects as antioxidants. InnovaBio is testing six anthocyanin-rich extracts to provide an initial baseline of the extract effects and benefits in promoting the growth of Bifidobacterium longum. This organism is found in the gut microbiota and testing will be performed under anaerobic conditions.

Osteoblast Project (Miguel)

As part of our work on using 3d printing and cell culture, we intend to grow hFOB 1.19 cells onto 3d printed bone models. hFOB 1.19 is an osteoblast cell line used to study human osteoblast differentiation. Successful attachment and proliferation of osteoblasts onto 3d printed components would has the potential to improve bone and orthopedic injury treatments. A dual-marker labeling system using promoter specific expression of fluorescent tags, allows for positive identification of osteoblasts and facilitates imaging of cells. A dual plasmid CRISPR knock-in system was designed for insertion of markers into the hROSA26 locus of the osteoblast cells.  

Melaleuca Alternifolia Anti- Bacterial Resistance (Lane)

The aim of this study was to seek additional data on the antimicrobial susceptibility of Staphylococcus spp. after habituation to low levels of the topical antimicrobial agent tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) oil. Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermis will be habituated to 0.075% tea tree oil (TTO) for 3 days. Habituation to sublethal concentrations of TTO may lead to increased resistance to antimicrobial agents.

The outcome so far is the TTO successfully reduced the number of colonies when added to a plate. Growth curves of S. aureus and S. epidermis with and without a concentration of 0.075% TTO will be determined. Once a growth curve has been successfully established for both conditions, we will begin prolonged exposure of S. epidermis to Melaleuca alternifolia to observe potential antimicrobial resistance.

Nanotoxicity Project (Lane)

Silver Nanoparticles (AgNPs) are known for their antimicrobial properties. Rather than programming apoptosis, AgNPs induce cell death energetically. Bioenergetic instabilities propagated by silver ions target gram-negative, gram-positive and resistant strain bacteria. The mechanisms are attributed to the particle's affinity to the cell wall and the cell’s DNA transcription factors, affecting cell homeostasis and its ability to function properly. AgNPs can be used in combination with antibiotics to enhance their effect and reduce the concentration needed to avoid antibiotic resistance. The strength and concentration of AgNP silver ions is depicted by the reducing agent used in synthesis. This study describes the synthesis of AgNPs using Sodium Borohydride, Glucose and a Plant Extract as the reducing agents. Different reducing agents customize the strength and properties of the AgNP and give them specific dimensions based on concentrations added. Higher concentrations of Sodium Borohydride, Glucose or the [Plant Based derivative] reduce the size of AgNPs and change the cytotoxicity of the particles based on molecular binding during particle capping. The molecular byproduct capping the particle is the focus of investigation and will be used to determine cytotoxicity of the AgNPs synthesized. After synthesis through reduction of silver nitrite with sodium borohydride, glucose and the plant-based derivative, a physico-chemical analysis was performed using UV-Vis spectroscopy, absorbance spectra data and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The absorbance data and SEM imaging determine the shape and size of the particles. Electro Deposition (EDS) confirms the presence of silver and shows elemental compositions of the AgNPs synthesized. Cytotoxicity of the reduced AgNPs was analyzed using kirby-disk bour diffusion, plating the synthesized AgNPs with E. coli and S. aureus bacteria. Zones of inhibitions and Light/Dark-Field Micrographs are collected to analyze the location of NP’s and to show the reducing agents' antibacterial effect in the microbial systems.

PET Project (Miguel)

Studies have shown the effectiveness of bacteria carrying the genes to produce PET-ase and MHET-ase (PET/MHET) in the metabolizing of polyethylene, or plastic.  In our project, our goal is to see if we can get similar PET/MHET gene expression in yeast to produce ethanol in addition to the environmentally safe and reusable byproducts these genes have been shown to create in bacteria.  We used a manufactured plasmid, pYES2, to insert genes for PET/MHET into a pGAL-GFP plasmid that we would be able to use to transform competent yeast cells and verify intake of the genes through the fluorescent properties of green fluorescent protein (GFP).  We then used our new pGAL-GFP plasmid containing PET/MHET to transform competent E. coli bacteria to create a starting plate from which we will extract our plasmid for the transformation of yeast.  This project is still ongoing.  Next steps include finding the Optimal conditions for plasmid uptake in yeast, and transformation of the yeast verified by whether they fluoresce or not.  Up to this point in the project, we were able to identify optimal conditions for annealing temperatures and starting plasmid concentrations for PCR, restriction digest, and ligation processes. We have been able to successfully transform E. coli cells with our PET/MHET containing pGAL-GFP plasmid.  Our goal is that if we can successfully transform yeast to metabolize polyethylene into ethanol, we can use that to biologically manufacture a resource from plastic wastes. 

Bacteriophage Project (Alix/Lane)

The InnovaBio lab is growing cultures of MS2 and M13 bacteriophages. We are developing protocols to increase infectivity and concentration of phage particles. We are also interested in working with other bacteriophages including: Q-beta, T7, Phi6.

We are also interested in cyanophages from three families of bacterial phages: Myoviridae, Siphoviridae, and Podoviridae. The family Myoviridae contains the majority of cyanophages isolated from marine water, while Podoviridae and Siphoviridae contain cyanophages that are commonly isolated from fresh water. The myoviruses and siphoviruses tend to be lytic, while podoviruses are often lysogenic, with their genome integrated into the host genome.

Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane) Project (Cambrie/Miguel)

InnovaBio is investigating the possibility of genetically modifying Hericium erinaceus, a mushroom with medicinal properties and also used as a meat substitute. We are interested in expressing plant based hemoglobin to improve the culinary applications of this species. To achieve this aim, we will isolate the appropriate plant gene and with CRISPR insert it into a non-scarring region of the mushroom genome. Scar-free regions will be identified by means of genomic and transcriptomic sequencing and bioinformatic analysis.

Collaborative Spaces

More spaces will be posted soon, check back here for updates.