6/4/10 ASHLAND, OH -- Jacqueline Skiba, a resident of Medina, is conducting research at Ashland University this summer and attended the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Skiba attended the meeting with Dr. Mason Posner, professor of biology at Ashland University, and an Ashland student, Amy Drossman of Sandusky.
Skiba participated in a poster presentation of their research on how a cataract preventing protein in the eye lens has evolved to function at different temperatures in six fish species. This study will help to explain how the same protein works to prevent cataracts in the human lens.
Following her research in Dr. Posner's laboratory at Ashland University this summer, she will be co-authoring a manuscript on their work.
A 2006 graduate of Medina High School and a 2010 graduate of Ashland University with a major in biology/toxicology, Skiba is the daughter of Martin and Marilyn of Medina.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it was awarding Ashland University $159,000 to perform additional research to better understand cataracts, one of the leading causes of human blindness. The grant was awarded through the National Eye Institute's Academic Research Enhancement Awards (AREA) fund.
"Funds from this grant have allowed us to hire undergraduate research students as summer laboratory assistants," Posner said. "The students are making discoveries that help us understand what goes wrong in the eye lens to produce cataracts."
Posner said he and his team of undergraduate students continue to use zebrafish to study how the protein alpha crystallin maintains lens transparency as the body ages.
"The zebrafish is a small tropical species that has become a widely used model for understanding many human diseases," Posner said. "Because the zebrafish eye lens contains the same components found in human lenses, this species can be used to study human eye disease without having to rely on more expensive species like mice and rats."
According to Posner, as the lens ages, its proteins become unstable and stick together, blocking the light that normally passes through to the retina. "Alpha crystallin keeps these aged proteins apart and preserves transparency," he said. "When alpha crystallin doesn't do its job, cataracts are formed."
This research was first conducted at Ashland University in 2001 following a grant from the National Institutes of Health. Funds from these grants have been used to develop a facility for the maintenance and breeding of zebrafish, and for the laboratory equipment and supplies used in experiments being conducted at the Kettering Science Center on the Ashland University campus.
Ashland University is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.