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Lecture Series in the Sciences

Elmira College's Sixth Annual Lecture Series in the Sciences.


Dr. Tsion Minas

Friday, October 13, 6:00 p.m.
Peterson Chapel inside Cowles Hall

Dr. Tsion Minas ’09, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health
"ETS family of transcription factors as a therapeutic target in cancer."

The ETS family of transcription factors share a conserved DNA binding domain that recognizes a purine rich consensus sequence with GGAA/T motif. ETS genes have been implicated in a wide array of malignancies including acute myeloid leukemia, Ewing sarcoma and prostate cancer. These genes are suppressed in most adult tissues, while in cancer; their expression is upregulated as a result of chromosomal rearrangements that leave the factors under a control of ubiquitously active promoters. In Ewing sarcoma (ES) patients, tumor specific chromosomal translocation involving FLI1 creates EWS-FLI1 protein. In previous studies, we identified a small molecule inhibitor, YK-4-279, that directly binds to EWS-FLI1 and inhibit its activities. Due to lack of an ES transgenic mouse model, we tested the in vivo therapeutic efficacy of YK-4-279 in the only available transgenic mouse model with EWS-FLI1 induced neoplasm. We showed that short-term YK-4-279 treatment led to correction of abnormal hematopoiesis and improved overall survival of EWS-FLI1+ leukemic mice. Thus far, a genetically engineered mouse model for EWS-FLI1 driven Ewing sarcoma has not been successfully generated. Here, we present data where we tried various approaches to conditionally express EWS-FLI1 using cre recombinase in order to generate a Ewing sarcoma transgenic mouse model. Overall, in this study, we demonstrate that direct targeting of ETS transcription factors with small molecules could be of significant therapeutic value in oncology.

 

Dr. Amy Vollmer

Monday, October 16 at 4:00 p.m.
Peterson Chapel inside Cowles Hall 

Dr. Amy Vollmer, Swarthmore College, Phi Beta Kappa Distinguished Scholar 
"What bacteria can teach us about stress response"

All living organisms encounter stress, which is an upset of a carefully balanced system. In contrast to larger, multicellular organism, bacteria do not have layers of dead cells protecting them or storage organs that can supply extra rations of stored food. So bacteria have to sense and respond to stress with great speed and specificity, as well as conserving energy so that the response to one stressor does not compromise the capacity to respond to additional stresses. At the cellular level, stress responses are evolutionarily conserved, so what bacteria teach us can be applied to our understanding of stress for all types of cells and organisms. Furthermore, stress response profiles can also shed light on how microbes survived the harsh conditions on the early earth, making the way for larger organisms possible.

 

Dr. Jeffrey Amack

Friday, October 27 at 6:00 p.m. 
Peterson Chapel inside Cowles Hall
Dr. Jeffrey Amack, SUNY Upstate Medical University
“Heart development in the Zebrafish embryo”

Research in the Amack lab is focused on understanding how organs form during embryonic development. In particular, we are interested in formation of the heart since defects in heart development represent the most common birth defect. We use the zebrafish embryo as a model system. Early heart formation in zebrafish is remarkably similar to what takes place in humans. Transparency of the embryo and rapid heart development make zebrafish especially appealing to study the causes of cardiac birth defects. We study genes and mechanisms that control positioning of the heart along the left-right body axis and have found that some of these genes are also critical for normal human heart development through collaborations with clinical geneticists whose patients have congenital heart defects.

 

Dr. Martha Weiss

Friday, November 10 at 5:30 p.m.
Peterson Chapel inside Cowles Hall
Dr. Martha Weiss, Georgetown University
“The strange lives of familiar insects”

Our campuses, gardens, and forests are crawling and buzzing with insects and spiders that we variously admire, ignore, recoil from, or swat to kill.  Many of these arthropods, upon closer examination, have strange and interesting life histories, as well as surprising behavioral capacities that help them adapt to their environments.  Monarch butterflies, for example, are adept students: they can learn to focus their attention on one flower color, to the exclusion of others, after only 60 seconds of training. A variety of plants, meanwhile, take advantage of insects' learning abilities, using floral color changes to direct the pollinators to visit flowers of certain colors, and to avoid others. Caterpillars of the skipper butterfly not only construct delicate houses of leaves and silk; they also ballistically eject their fecal matter great distances away from themselves, at great speeds. Some jumping spiders mimic ants in such accurate detail, both in morphology and behavior, that they fool even human ant taxonomists - and more importantly, elude enemies that fear ant attacks.  This talk will introduce you to the tremendous behavioral flexibility, diversity of sensory systems, and complexity of ecological contexts, of a sample of locally common arthropods.

All of these lectures are free and open to the community. Please contact Dr. Daniel Kjar for more information.