2006 Off Campus Research Internship Awardee

Nicki Zelenski (Biology)


Activities Associated with Award

Mentor: Dr. Ray Vanderby (University of Wisconsin-Madison, Medical School)


Optimal Neuropeptide Concentration for Cell Proliferation
and Matrix Expression.

Doctor Ray Vanderby has been my mentor for two years. His main interests (and mine) lie in the fields of orthopedic research in biomedical engineering and surgery. This project interests me especially because my specialty will be orthopedic surgery and recovery and biofactors such as these that we are researching may prove to help with post surgery recovery, which is invaluable to patient and surgeon.

With an increasing number of joint replacement and spinal surgeries come accompanying ailments such as articular cartilage and intervertebral disk degeneration. It has been shown that connective tissues without peripeheral innervation, such as cartilage, heal poorly. In a preliminary study by Nyung, Vanderby and Anderson, nucleus pulposus and articular cartilage from bovine calf spines and femoral condyles were exposed to different neuropeptides including calcitonin gene -related peptide, neuropeptide Y substance P and vasointestinal peptide. At various points in growth (days 1,5 and 8) they were harvested and were subjected to various calorimetric and luminescent assays to quantify the effect of each neuropeptide on proliferation. Most neuropeptides tested were found to have a positive effect on bovine articular proliferation and bovine nucleus pulposus cell proliferation. However, the effect of different dosages has not been tested.

In order to quantify and optimize cell proliferation and matrix synthesis, I will be testing different concentrations of the same periperal neuropeptides on rabbit intervertebral disc cells. Nucleus pulposus is dissected from each spinal disc and incubated. The cells are then harvested, plated and incubated overnight. The following day neuropeptides are added at different starting concentrations. These concentrations will be varied up and down by a factor of 19 until optimal cell proliferation and matrix protein expression is found. Proliferation assays and GAG assays will be performed in culture for one week to quantify results. Statistical analysis will be used to establish significance of differences between test groups and the control group.

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