Mary Gates Endowment For Students

Anthony Heng

Mary Gates Research Scholar, Autumn 2021

Research Project: Early Detection of Alpha Synuclein Toxic Oligomers in Parkinson’s Disease Patients

Project Description: Lewy bodies are abnormal deposits of protein in the brain, and a pathogenic hallmark of Parkinson’s disease. They mostly consist of fibrillar ɑ-synuclein, an amyloidogenic protein. The Daggett lab investigates the involvement of a secondary structure called ɑ-sheet in amyloidogenic proteins, postulating that they adopt a nonstandard secondary structure called ɑ-sheet during aggregation upon forming soluble oligomers, prior to the formation of insoluble fibrils. This soluble, oligomeric species with ɑ-sheet secondary structure is the toxic agent in amyloidogenic diseases. Preliminary data reveal the presence of ɑ-sheet in Parkinson’s disease patient samples, showing promise for detection of Parkinson’s disease earlier than previously possible using an assay designed to detect proteins with ɑ-sheet secondary structure.

What have you learned throughout your research project?

The process of research is exciting, and rarely easy. I’ve learned that being persistent, always persevering after failure, and maintaining a positive attitude are important to making the most out of any research experience. I also discovered that the most valuable resources you have are your peers and mentors. When you collaborate with people around you who come from vastly different backgrounds and possess diverse skillsets you are constantly learning and improving.

What piece of advice do you have for future applicants?

Don’t give up when you fail! Failing is a part of research and is usually very instructive.