A recent graduate who worked on a research project with biology professor Dr. Ellen Aho is furthering that work as a sponsored researcher in the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology at the University of Oxford in England.
Corey Horien ’12 is continuing a study aimed at understanding bacteria associated with meningitis, the inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain, which is a serious problem in many parts of the world.
Aho says the combined Oxford-Concordia study Horien contributed to during his junior and senior years at Concordia focused on genes encoding a particular bacterial protein called pilin. Pilin proteins make up hair-like fibers that help the bacteria attach themselves to the human respiratory tract, which is the first step of a meningitis infection. Horien has been at Oxford since November working with an internationally recognized research team there.
“At Concordia we did a computational study of these genes,” says Aho. “What Corey is doing now is a functional analysis in the laboratory. He is working to understand how pilin proteins made by bacteria that do not cause disease compare to the proteins produced by pathogens.”
Horien is focusing on more fully exploring the role of pilin proteins in the bacterial species Neisseria cinerea. “My project is progressing well and we’re starting to acquire some really interesting data,” says Horien. “Our initial results suggest that out of two pilin proteins expressed by Neisseria cinerea, only one seems to be important for the functions we’ve tested so far.” Horien’s work is directed at understanding the role these proteins play in bacteria-human interactions.
“Working here in Oxford is a wonderful experience, and I’m extremely fortunate to have an opportunity to live abroad and conduct research at this world-class institution,” says Horien.
Aho says the Oxford group was impressed with Horien’s work as an undergraduate student, and they were very open to taking him on as a member of their research team.
“It’s gratifying to see the collaboration between Concordia and Oxford continuing through Corey’s involvement in this important research,” says Aho.
Horien plans to enter a combined medical school/doctorate program in the fall and, given his experiences in doing top-level research, so far he has been accepted into leading programs including Baylor, Rutgers-Princeton, University of Minnesota and others.