My name is Veronika Lozano and I am a senior majoring in Biology. My project deals with learning about the role that exosomes have during the infection of Yersenia pestis, which is the causative agent of the plague. After taking microbiology I was intrigued to learn more about microbial mechanisms and I began to take an interest in infectious diseases shortly thereafter. When I learned about the research that was occurring in Dr. Hakami’s lab it was very interesting to me and I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to join the team.
Exosomes are an important mode of communication between cells as they carry genetic material and proteins between donor and recipient cells. Even though it has become known in recent years that exosomes can play a central role in regulating the spread of some pathogens, the mechamism of action is not completely understood. We know from previous research that exosomes derived from infection with an attenuated strain of Y. pestis causes uninfected monocytes to slow down their growth, increase cell attachment, and have a prolonged G1 phase during the cell cycle.
It was initially planned that I would be evaluating these effects from exosomes obtained from a virulent strain of Y. pestis, but this has not been possible due to unexpected difficulties in getting clearance from BSL-3 into BSL-2. Being able to adapt and adjust quickly to situations has been important because experiments may not go quite as planned. Research has been a very valuable experience and, as an aspiring physician, I hope to be able to use the skills that I have developed through research in the future. It is exciting to think about how my project can contribute to further studies involving the development of novel therapeutics and vaccines.