Haussmann and student researchers discover effects of prenatal testosterone

Maja Ostojic, Contributing Writer

Associate Professor of Biology Mark Haussmann worked with Assistant Professor of Biology Morgan Benowitz-Fredericks and several undergraduate students to publish the first academic paper that demonstrates the negative effects of prenatal testosterone exposure on DNA repair mechanisms.

Within the last 10 to 20 years, aging biology, specifically stress biology, has become a popular field of interest. Haussmann and two of his previous students, Lisa Treidel ’12 (now at University of Illinois) and Brittany Whitley ’12 (now at University of Washington) are co-authors of a paper that appeared on the University’s website for the month of April. The paper was featured in the Royal Society Journal, a biological research journal.

“The work was a true collaboration with two undergraduates in my laboratory. We sat down and came up with the idea together and then they implemented the research protocol, did the lab work, and helped me do analysis and write the paper,” Haussmann said.

In his lab, Haussmann emphasizes teamwork and and emphasis on the importance of undergraduate research.

“I think this is one of the things that makes Bucknell special. If the students are willing to invest the time and work really hard they can be involved in all phases of scientific research,” Haussmann said.

This year, Haussmann included three new members in his lab: Jeremy van de Rijn ’15, Kailey Tindle ’15 and Mackenzie Ferry ’14.

Van de Rijn is working with Becca Glynn ’15 on the Telomere Restriction Fragment assay, which helps determine the length of telomere, the protective caps on our chromosomes that decrease with age and stress. Tindle is working on an independent project involving a radioimmunoassay, an assay used to measure the amount of endogenous corticosterone in the blood/plasma. She is also working with GiOS (glucocorticoid-induced oxidative stress), which is brought on by certain steroid hormones that damages cells and accelerates aging. Ferry is working with Haussmann to extract human cord blood samples and run a time-resolved fluorescence (TRF) assay to measure telomere lengths and predict whether a stressful prenatal environment will negatively impact the baby.

Kelsey Fletcher ’14 and Vince Fasanello ’14 are currently writing about their research over the years in hopes of becoming published, as Treidel and Whitley have been.

“This is my first year working in Dr. Haussmann’s lab and it has been a wonderful and challenging experience. I have learned so much about the aging process, stress physiology, and basic lab techniques. Being a part of Dr. Haussmann’s lab has taught me how to think critically about science and about how to conduct and discuss scientific research,” Ferry said. “Dr. Haussmann encourages his students to have a hands-on role in his research. It is incredible to be a part of research that is so truly groundbreaking. His work really has the potential to make a significant impact on the world of aging biology.”

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