Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Amir Balakhmet L&S Biological Sciences

Developing fluorescent probes to identify dengue-reactive B cells

Dengue virus (DENV) causes up to 390M infections annually, yet current vaccines present safety and efficacy concerns. Most vaccines work by eliciting antibody and memory B cell responses against a pathogen; for DENV, distinct subsets of antibodies and their parental B cells are known to be involved in both protection against and enhancement of future dengue disease. However, current methods for identifying DENV-reactive B cells are low-yield, non-specific, and labor-intensive, resulting in small samples lacking statistical power to overcome interpersonal variation and draw conclusions about immune dynamics.
I aim to develop a fluorescent whole-virion probe for higher-throughput screening of DENV-reactive B cells. I will characterize a novel probe that we have generated via ELISAs, immunofluorescence and RTqPCR, then test its sensitivity and specificity using immortalized B cell lines and human samples via flow cytometry. The probe will then be used to track B cell dynamics over the course of infection and convalescence in pediatric dengue samples from our lab’s ongoing hospital cohort study.

Message To Sponsor

Dear Fruewirth Fund, I just wanted to express how thankful I am to you for making this excellent research opportunity possible. As an international student from Kazakhstan, I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to participate in undergraduate research, something that I would not necessarily be able to do in my home country or in many other undergraduate research programs on campus. Your generosity has allowed me to grow as a scientist and student and I will be forever grateful for this experience. Sincerely, Amir
Major: MCB - Immunology & Statistics
Mentor: Eva Harris
Sponsor: Fruewirth Fund
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