Monday, September 26, 2016

URSP Student Nicole Doriguzzi Conducts Studies to Benefit the Fertility Preservation in Carnivores

My name is Nicole Doriguzzi. I am a transfer student and upcoming senior about to finish my bachelor’s degree in biology at George Mason University. In the spring I conducted research at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute through a new undergraduate research opportunity between the Smithsonian and Mason. After interning under Dr. Nucharin Songsasen and her post-doc students in the gamete lab at SCBI, I chose to continue my research in this lab throughout the summer with the URSP grant I have received from OSCAR.

Our research focuses on conducting studies to benefit the fertility preservation in large, endangered carnivores with techniques such as in-vitro ovarian tissue growth in order to produce viable oocytes (egg cells). We study domestic dog and cat ovaries as they are ideal models for their endangered counterparts. With thousands of vulnerable, threatened, and endangered animal species in the world, experiment design and research in these techniques is incredibly significant for species conservation and I am honored to be a part of this process.

For the summer portion of my research, myself and a post-doc student built off of my spring research. In the spring I sought to establish a productive and efficient ovarian follicle recovery method for the domestic dog. With a moderately successful method, myself and my colleague focused on optimizing an in vitro culture method to produce developmentally competent oocytes. Our research goal consisted of increasing communication between domestic dog oocytes and granulosa cells via increased cAMP levels amplified by PDE3 inhibitor (cilostamide) and adenylyl cyclase activator (forskolin) pathways.

I am hopeful that my experience conducting undergraduate research through Mason and the Smithsonian will benefit my chances of getting into veterinary school or graduate school. I have learned a great deal through this extension of my research thanks to the URSP and OSCAR and am truly grateful for the opportunity to grow as a student and scholar. After graduate school, I would like to become a wildlife veterinarian with a concentration towards species conservation. Who knows, I may even come back to conducting research!