Bioengineering grad student twice honored
Xiaoguang Yang’s final semester as a student in the University of Missouri’s Biological Engineering Department has been an eventful one.
After receiving his doctorate in December, Yang took first prize in the poster competition at MU’s Translational Neuroscience Symposium in February. The following month, he was awarded the Young Investigator Educational Enhancement Award for the American Society for Neurochemistry’s (ASN) 42nd annual conference, held in St. Louis.
“This award is quite exciting. It’s a prestigious award for those working in neuroscience,” Yang said.
Yang did his graduate work with Associate Professor James Lee, examining the role of cell membranes in Alzheimer’s disease. Lee’s group is specifically looking at the accumulation of amyloid plaques in the brain, which contribute to degradation of the neurons — nerve cells — resulting in the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
For his thesis research, which he presented at the ASN conference, Yang attempted to use lasers to suppress ill effects of amyloid beta peptides, toxic protein aggregates found in Alzheimer’s brains. The laser technique effectively halted the production of toxic reactive oxygen species resulted from amyloid beta peptides.
Yang said it eventually might be possible to use the technique to treat people with Alzheimer’s.
The topic of the young researcher’s prize-winning poster looked at inflammatory neurological processes.
Yang explained that astrocytes perform many important functions in the brain. His treatment of astrocytes with cytokine causes an enzyme to be released into the culture medium that, when used to treat neurons, contributes to brain health.
With a bachelor’s degree in physics and master’s degrees in biophysics and bioinformatics, Yang said he chose to pursue his doctorate in biological engineering to get more hands-on experience with “live” research work.
He has been accepted as a post-doctoral researcher at Laboratory of Astrocyte Biology and CNS Regeneration, Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
“I will study therapy-related astrocyte–neuron interactions. My mentor will be an M.D. PhD., a well known scientist in astrocytes.” Yang said. “Since I want to stay in academia, I am trying my best to get more quality research done.”