Saturday, February 18, 2017
Exhibit Hall (Hynes Convention Center)
Victoria Salo, Biddeford High School, Biddeford, ME
The immune system is a complex system of cells and tissues that must work in harmony to protect us from infections. It is vital to our health that our immune system functions properly. Defects lead to reduced host defense and serious infections, which are termed as immunodeficiency diseases. Immunodeficiency can be a result of genetic mutations in immune cells or tissues, or can be induced by certain medications or infections, such as HIV infection. As a high school science teacher, I am interested in developing a curriculum that introduces immunodeficiency and related immunological assays to my students. I was accepted into The American Association of Immunologists (AAI) High School Teachers Summer Research Program in Immunology this past summer, and worked in a laboratory in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of New England. While there, I observed and performed experiments in the field of neuroimmunology. In these experiments, I worked with immunodeficient mice generated through genetic mutation and a murine retroviral infection-induced mouse model of HIV/AIDS (termed as murine AIDS). From my experience, I developed an immunology unit to meet standards in both the AP Biology curriculum and a course in Genetics. The curriculum includes an introduction to the immune system, genetic engineering of knockout mice, and how animal models are used to investigate the roles of the immune system in particular diseases. Students will then dive into laboratory techniques, including enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to detect serum antibody levels in mouse blood and flow cytometry to phenotype wild type mice versus CD4 T cell knockout mice. The flow cytometry will occur in my mentor’s laboratory at the University of New England, while the ELISA will be performed in the classroom. The unit will conclude with facilitating students to use what they have learned about the immune system to examine the consequences following disruptions of specific immune components, thus further understanding particular immunodeficiency diseases. Student groups will create a poster and present it to the class and other biology classes at the school. The goal of this unit is to 1) enhance students’ understanding of how animals are used as disease models in research and 2) to learn how defects in the immune response can be detected using laboratory techniques.