By Kerry Steinhofer
As a John C. Young Scholar (JCY), Emily McGlone ’18 (Cincinnati, Ohio) is studying the effects of electricity on the aggregation patterns of Amyloid-β, a peptide involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease.
Centre College’s JCY program is designed to serve strong, highly motivated seniors, allowing them to engage in independent study, research or artistic work in their major discipline or in an interdisciplinary area of their choosing.
During McGlone’s junior year, she joined a research project led by Assistant Professor of Chemistry Kerry Paumi. The project aimed at synthesizing and characterizing a peptide-linked metal chelator as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s.
“I specifically studied the patterns of Amyloid-β aggregation– a pathological marker of the disease,” she explained. “At the same time, I had been suffering from chronic migraines for over a year and had desperately been searching for therapy options. Ironically, my migraine experience led to a unique opportunity, which sparked an idea that evolved into my research proposal.”
McGlone’s thesis proposal integrated the migraine electrotherapy with her passion for the previous Alzheimer’s research she was involved in.
“I began to undergo a treatment called TruDenta, which includes a cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES) unit,” she said. “Upon researching CES online, I learned that it is prescribed to treat a variety of conditions, including some symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s.
“Later, I began investigating further into the use of different forms of electrotherapy for the treatment of Alztheimer’s,” she continued. “I read published research that expressed the potential effectiveness of electrotherapy for Alzheimer’s, both on the cellular level and in clinical trials. However, I was curious as to whether or not electrotherapy could directly affect the peptide I was studying.”
McGlone initially became interested in this research when she was a prospective student and read an article on Centre’s website about Paumi’s project. After joining the project, the more time and energy she spent on it, the more passionate she became.
“By including ideas from my own life experience, I invested myself even more into the research,” she added. “Furthermore, I am continuously driven to contribute to Alzheimer’s research because of my deceased namesake; because of the inspirational patient I worked with, whose capacity for love shown far beyond her confusion; because of a companion’s mother, who suffers amongst millions of others; and I am motivated for the sake of my curiosity.”
Like most science experiments, McGlone dealt with a lot of trial and error in the lab. She designed her experimental procedures around ones she already knew, but ended up encountering setbacks and confounding variables that weren’t accounted for.
“I ended up having to learn several new techniques that are related to fields of research that I am far less familiar with,” she said. “I spent a lot of time trying to wrap my head around the results I received and collaborated with several different professors. While my research was more difficult than I expected, overcoming those obstacles has made my experience more worthwhile in the long run.”
Along with learning new lab techniques, McGlone had to expand her knowledge in electrotherapy and circuitry. Throughout her project, she has learned that she is increasingly more likely to seek help from various experts or published literature about the subject.
“My biggest takeaway has been to seek advice from people with diverse backgrounds,” she added. “At one point, when my research came to a major obstacle, it took a combination of the advice from my advisor, another chemistry professor, a physics professor and an electrical engineer to overcome it.”
After Centre, McGlones will attend medical school at the University of Cincinnati.